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AT&T goes calling at Davos. It's a 'no'

Vodafone’s tongue-tied suitor, AT&T chief, Randall Stephenson, apparently made his intentions clear at Davos and went as far as sounding out the parents (in this case the formidable figure of EU Information Commissioner, Neelie Kroes) as to whether there would be a problem if he and Vittorio (Calao, Vodafone's Chief Executive), you know, got it together for an AT&T takeover.

We don’t know how the conversations went, but the upshot was that AT&T has issued a statement ruling out an AT&T move on Vodafone for the foreseeable future, thus ending the ‘fevered’ speculation and share price uncertainty.

"AT&T Inc notes the recent speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Vodafone Group Plc," it said. "At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone."

Once a bid is ruled out AT&T is supposed to sit on its hands and not make another bid (or suspicious move) unless something big and material changes - such as an AT&T rival making a bid for Vodafone.

In which case it could steam back into the fray.

The AT&T interest in Vodafone is apparently long-standing but until recently had to remain unrequited because of Vodafone’s half share in AT&T’s US rival, Verizon. That and the fact that, with its Verizon share on the balance sheet, Vodafone was pretty-much indigestible.

Now Vodafone is flush with cash but vulnerable to take-over, a situation it might or might not be trying to rectify by buying into things that might not appeal to a predator. In this case Vodafone’s target is reported to be Spanish cable company, Grupo Corporativo ONO.

Follow the writer on Twitter @ ian_TTV

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