Telecom & Wireless

AT&T Clears Way for Vodafone Growth by Acquisition

Shares of Vodafone Group PLC (NASDAQ: VOD) tumbled in premarket trading Monday after AT&T Inc. (NYSE: T) ended speculation that it would acquire the British telecom. AT&T said in a statement: “At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone.” The decision means that AT&T may not bid for the British telecom for six months.

Vodafone has been a speculated takeover target since it announced last year that it would sell its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless to partner Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) for $130 billion. However, the Newbury, U.K.-based company seems to be putting itself on a path to growth by acquisition. It recently acquired German cable TV operator Kabel Deutschland as part of its push into new markets.

Vodafone is said to be pursuing Spanish cable operator Grupo Corporativo ONO. But ONO has been preparing for an initial public offering, valued at as much as 6.4 billion euros ($8.8 billion). If there is a deal with Vodafone instead, it could be announced in the next few weeks, said people familiar with the matter.

British Sky Broadcasting reportedly is another possible target for Vodafone. However, there are also rumors that British Sky’s parent company, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. (NASDAQ: FOX) may seek to fold in its operations in an effort to unite its European operations. Furthermore, Twenty-First Century Fox is a majority shareholder of British Sky and likely would block any deal in which it became a minority partner.

Vodafone and Verizon will hold shareholder meetings this week to approve the $130 billion deal, which is expected to be passed with an overwhelming majority and close in the coming weeks.

Vodafone shares were down 5% to $36.17 in premarket trading Monday. The 52-week range is $24.42 to $39.44.