Vodafone May Sell Verizon Stake
Vodafone Group is discussing a possible sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications Inc., a move that would free the British company to buy AT&T; Wireless Services Inc., sources said.
Vodafone would need to sell all or part of its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to acquire AT&T; Wireless, which last month put itself on the block and set a Feb. 13 deadline for bids. Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile carrier, is worth more than $20 billion, analysts say.
A bid for Redmond, Wash.-based AT&T; Wireless would pit Vodafone of Britain against SBC Communications Inc. and BellSouth Corp., which have made an informal offer of $11 a share, or about $30 billion. SBC and BellSouth want to combine AT&T; Wireless with their Cingular Wireless joint venture to create the biggest U.S. mobile-phone company.
“If there’s more than a couple bidders, it will be for a pretty robust price,” said Ed Paik, of Columbia Management Group, which has more than $100 billion under management including SBC shares. SBC and BellSouth could justify offering as much as $12 a share, he said.
Vodafone Chief Executive Arun Sarin last week said he was assessing a U.S. acquisition. Ben Padovan, a spokesman for Vodafone in London, declined to comment. Verizon spokesman Peter Thonis declined to comment, as did AT&T; Wireless spokesman David Caouette.