Verizon Communications is preparing a $100 billion cash and stock bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone Group, reports Reuters. Verizon’s board is expected to discuss the potential buyout next week ahead of its annual shareholder meeting.
Verizon Communications and UK-based Vodafone formed Verizon Wireless as a joint venture in 1999. Though Verizon has not yet made an official proposal to Vodafone, it has hired banking and legal advisors, according to Reuters’ sources. The company currently owns 55 percent of Verizon Wireless. Though it’s uncertain if Vodafone is interested in the deal, Verizon is prepared to take a bid public if negotiations don’t come to fruition.
Reuter’s two unnamed sources state that after contemplating a buyout Verizon Wireless, its British partner, from Vodafone for the past 10 years, Verizon is now “ready to push aggressively for a deal.” Taking full ownership of Verizon Wireless would give Verizon more flexibility thanks to the wireless company’s cash flow. Verizon currently has the advantage of record low interest rates, as well the current strong performance of its shares, which have risen about 20 percent this year and are currently trading at their highest price in a decade. The company would raise about $50 billion of bank financing, and make up the other $50 billion with its own shares.
Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to confirm the proposal to Reuters, but noted that Verizon had said earlier this month that it would be a willing buyer of Vodafone’s share of Verizon Wireless.
If Verizon does indeed take Verizon Wireless of Vodafone’s hands, it would fit into Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao’s strategy for the company, which has been to streamline its assets after years of rapid expansion. Colao has been exploring options for its stake in Verizon Wireless, which makes up 75 percent of Vodafone’s valuation. Selling its Verizon Wireless share to Verizon is just one of Colao’s options. He could also sell Vodafone in its entirety to Verizon, but that seems less likely because of Vodafone’s relatively high valuation. If Vodafone does indeed sell off its Verizon Wireless stake, it could potentially make the company an attractive acquisition for suitors like AT&T.