It is already beleaguered by other investors, including Cevian, a European activist fund that disclosed a stake in January and pushed Mr Read to simplify the business and shed underperforming divisions.
Cevian has also reportedly pushed Vodafone forward with takeover plans in various markets. Vodafone is currently in talks with UK mobile rival Three over a possible merger.
Karen Egan, telecoms expert at Enders Analysis, said Etisalat’s unexpected move came at “a crucial time” for Mr Read and the UAE company would not have taken a dive unless bosses told believe “they can have a lot of influence”.
Paolo Pescatore, another telecommunications analyst, said the investment in Vodafone came “like a thunderclap”.
He said some would say it could be seen as a much-needed endorsement of Mr Read’s strategy ahead of Tuesday’s results, but added: ‘It’s going to run counter to what other shareholders are saying.
He said Vodafone had been slow on the issue of convergence – combining fixed broadband services with a mobile offer – in some major markets such as the UK, leaving it caught out by its rivals.
“That’s what could ultimately come back to bite Read,” he added, “and a takeover of Three would by no means be a silver bullet, because it doesn’t solve the fundamental problem that you need to access a fixed network.”