Verizon to spend up to US$100 billion to buy Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless

It is believed that Verizon is willing to spend up to US$100 BILLION to get its hands on Vodafone's share of the joint venture and whilst the US carrier would prefer the negotiations to be "amicable" it is prepared to get very hostile indeed if the friendly approach fails. That said, it seems Verizon has not yet made any formal proposal to Vodafone.

Verizon is now a major force in US telecoms with getting on for 100 million subscribers and, as it's size, influence and confidence has grown, so has speculation that one day it would move to rid itself of its British partner. It seems that day is now at hand.

Word has it that the Verizon board will discuss buying Vodafone out of Verizon Wireless when it meets next week just before the company's AGM. However, as of this moment Verizon is staying schtum with company spokesperson Bob Varettoni stonewalling queries and pointing coyly at a statement Verizon made earlier in April when take-over rumours first reached reached fever-pitch. In that bland missive Verizon simply says that it would be interested in buying-up Vodafone's 45 per cent share of Verizon Wireless "under the right circumstances". It looks as though they now are.

Verizon's stock price is on the up-and up (it has risen by 20 per cent so far this year), the company is awash with cash and at the moment credit is cheap for Blue Chip US companies. It is believed that any deal would be a combination of greenbacks and shares.

Vodafone, meanwhile, has been in the joint venture for ten years now and its chief executives have, from time to time, come under shareholder pressure to sell the holding to increase investor returns. The UK mobile operator's shares have been in the doldrums for years but have been rising as rumours of a possible buy-out have multiplied.

Vodafone's holding in Verizon Wireless is very much a case of the tail wagging the dog, with the jv accounting for almost three-quarters of Vodafone's total value. The present chief executive, Vittorio Colao, has been focusing on re-aligning the company after years of very rapid expansion into various foreign markets. Some of these investments have been spectacularly unsuccessful.

Selling the interest in Verizon Wireless would bring in a lot of cash but leave the company in something of a quandry about what to do and where to go next. Other rumours have it that one option might be to sell of the whole kit and caboodle - with AT&T frequently cited as being a prospective purchaser.

Mind you, there's many a slip 'twixt cup and lip.

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