LONDON/NEW YORK – Wireless telecommunications company Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) said it is not planning to bid for Verizon Communications Inc (VZ), responding to a report it was considering a $160 billion offer.
The Financial Times' FT Alphaville blog said Monday that Vodafone was considering such a bid -- which would consolidate ownership of their wireless joint venture -- prompting Verizon's shares to jump more than 12 percent in premarket trading.
Verizon shares gave up most of those gains after Vodafone's denial and were up only 2.23 percent at $42.69 at midday. Vodafone shares trimmed earlier losses to trade down 0.61 percent at 162.20 pence.
"Vodafone wishes to make it clear that it has no plans to make such an offer," the company said in a brief statement.
Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to comment.
A $160 billion bid would represent a 32 percent premium to Verizon's market capitalization of about $121 billion at Friday's close.
Vodafone and Verizon have joint ownership of Verizon Wireless, the second-largest mobile service provider in the United States in terms of subscriber base, behind AT&T Inc (T). Verizon has said it was interested in taking full ownership of the profitable asset.
Atlantic Equity analyst Chris Watts said that regardless of whether Vodafone planned to make such an offer for Verizon, the report drew attention to Verizon's valuations amid a wave of merger activity in the telecom sector.
"It's going to highlight the value of the assets within Verizon at the moment," he said.
The FT Alphaville report also comes amid calls by investment group Efficient Capital Structure for Vodafone to spin off Verizon Wireless and release cash to shareholders.
ECS, which owns 0.0004 percent of Vodafone's equity, has said it will make the proposal at the company's annual meeting on July 24.
Verizon has a controlling 55 percent stake in the wireless venture, with Vodafone holding the rest.
Richard Marwood, a fund manager in AXA Investments, which owns Vodafone shares, said he would prefer that Verizon made the acquisition, rather than the other way around.
"We would much prefer it if it were the other way round. It would make more sense. They (Verizon) could then spin off the non-U.S. assets (of Vodafone)," he said, adding he would need to see the terms of any deal before deciding whether to support it. "I imagine all possibilities are being considered."
Verizon Wireless competes against AT&T, which took full ownership of its wireless division, formerly known as Cingular, after buying partner BellSouth Corp late last year.
FT Alphaville, citing unnamed sources, said Vodafone had not yet approached Verizon with an acquisition plan and there was no certainty a bid will be pursued.