Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ) has eyed a potential acquisition of Sprint Corp. (FON), but has no imminent plans to make a bid, people familiar with the situation said Tuesday.

Separately, Verizon's British joint-venture partner Vodafone Group Plc (search) said it was not in talks with Verizon about a possible bid by Verizon for Sprint.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal said Verizon had gained the backing of Vodafone to make a bid for Sprint, in a move that could thwart Sprint's $35 billion bid for Nextel Communications Inc. (NXTL).

The deal between Sprint and Nextel is expected to be annou New York Stock Exchange, hit a high of $25.40 in early trading. The stock then settled to $24.63, up 19 cents.

Verizon declined to comment. Sprint and Nextel could not be immediately reached for comment.

Vodafone, the world's largest mobile phone company by revenue, also said that it had no plans to launch its own bid for either Sprint or Nextel, the No. 3 and No. 5. U.S. wireless telephone companies, respectively.

People familiar with Verizon's strategy said the company has no immediate plans to make a bid for Sprint.

Verizon "is worth keeping an eye on but there's a lot of pieces that need to fall into place perfectly for it to happen," a source said.

The company has studied the company and considered its options, but regulatory hurdles and the expected complications of spinning off overlapping assets would make the deal onerous and time-consuming, the people said.

"We believe a Verizon/Sprint deal would face significantly greater regulatory scrutiny than a Sprint/Nextel deal, given Verizon Wireless' size and the FCC's concern about wireless market power coming under greater (Baby Bell) control," said Prudential Securities analyst Christopher Larsen.

American Depositary Receipts (search) of Vodafone were down 62 cents, or 2.24 percent, at $27.05 on the New York Stock Exchange.