UK takeover panel requests AT&T makes its position clear after months of speculation
US operator AT&T has ruled out launching a takeover bid for Vodafone in the next six months, following months of speculation.
AT&T has long been expected to bid for a European operator as it struggles to find areas of growth in the US market, and its CEO Randall Stephenson has previously spoken of a “huge opportunity” for investment on the other side of the Atlantic.
Vodafone has been mentioned as a potential target for AT&T once the UK operator has completed the sale of its stake in Verizon Wireless, AT&T’s main US rival. However the UK Takeover Panel has now requested that AT&T come clean about its immediate intentions.
“AT&T notes the recent speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Vodafone Group and recent movement in the share price of Vodafone,” reads AT&T’s statement. “At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone.”
Under UK rules, AT&T is now unable to make a bid for six months, but it would be able to enter the fray if Vodafone received another bid. It is thought that Vodafone shareholders could be receptive to a takeover, with many supporting Verizon’s bid for full control of the Verizon Wireless joint-venture, as it would make the British operator more attractive to a US buyer.
AT&T is the second largest operator in the US, but is frustrated by its inability to expand its market share in its homeland and believes there is huge potential in Europe, where revenues are still largely dependent on voice and text services.
It still believes there is a chance to get a head start on shifting customers onto lucrative data-based pricing schemes that are common in the US and has also been linked with a move for EE.
Vodafone is the world’s second largest operator and any merger would create the world’s largest telecoms company by sales, with more than 500 million subscribers. However AT&T is unlikely to want to keep all of Vodafone’s assets, such as its networks in emerging markets, which could be sold to another buyer like Carlos Slim’s America Movil or China Mobile. French operator Orange has also been suggested as a suitor for Vodafone’s African businesses.
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