US telcos rumoured to be planning Vodafone takeover

Two giants of the US telecommunications industry are rumoured to be planning a $245 billion takeover bid for Vodafone, the UK's second largest mobile operator, according to the FT Alphaville blog

Citing "usually reliable people", the two telcos plan to split the company up. Verizon wants to buy Vodafone out of their Verizon Wireless joint venture, while AT&T would take over the company's non-US assets. 

FT Alphaville notes that the rumoured priced, about 260p per share, would be the biggest acquisition ever. It would "dwarf the previous M&A record holder, AOL's $182bn takeover of Time Warner in 2000", the blog wrote. 

Earlier this year, AT&T was rumoured to be in the frame to acquire EE, the parent of T-Mobile UK and Orange, after the company's intention to buy its way into the European market emerged. 

According to industry news title TMT Finance, it was also linked to Dutch telco KPN; Hutchison's European assets, which include Three; and business telco Colt.

Earlier this year, US-owned cable TV company Liberty Global acquired UK telecommunications provider Virgin Media for £15 billion.

This consolidation comes at a time when UK telecommunications companies are facing shrinking mobile voice revenues, which have yet to be counterbalanced by mobile data sales. 

So why would a US company want to buy into this market?

A research note from Merrill Lynch, quoted by FT Alphaville, pointed to comments made by AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson, in which he said that opportunities arise in troubled times. 

Verizon, AT&T and Vodafone have declined to comment. 

Pete Swabey

Pete Swabey

Pete was Editor of Information Age and head of technology research for Vitesse Media plc from 2005 to 2013, before moving on to be Senior Editor and then Editorial Director at The Economist Intelligence...

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Mergers and Acquisitions