Vodafone Confirms '$100bn' Verizon Sale Talks
Vodafone has confirmed it is in talks with Verizon Communications about selling its stake in their joint US venture, potentially worth more than $100bn (£64.5bn).
The FTSE 100-listed firm owns a 45% stake in Verizon Wireless - America's largest mobile phone operator.
While Vodafone insisted the talks may not lead to a deal, its shares rose 9% on opening as investors welcomed the prospect of a windfall for the company which would amount to one of the largest ever corporate transactions.
While a sale would likely be used by Vodafone to pay off debt , the proceeds would probably also result in a special dividend to shareholders, boost pension funds and Treasury coffers through tax.
Confirmation of the discussions came on the day Vodafone and O2 launched their 4G services in the UK.
It is thought that Verizon wants to pay around $100bn although reports have suggested that Vodafone would press for as much as $130bn (£84bn).
Vodafone has a market worth of just under £100bn, which means the bulk of its value is locked up in a business where it has no day-to-day control.
The Newbury-based company - which recently spent £9.1bn on securing more business in Germany - said today: "Vodafone notes the recent press speculation and confirms that it is in discussions with Verizon Communications regarding the possible disposal of Vodafone's US group whose principal asset is its 45% interest in Verizon Wireless.
"There is no certainty that an agreement will be reached."
Talk of a sale emerged earlier this year when it was reported that Verizon had hired advisers on a possible buyout.
Then, it was suggested that any bid would consist of a roughly 50/50 cash and stock offer.
Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital said a deal would likely see Vodafone become the "new darling" of the telecom sector.
"Very welcome news for Vodafone," he said.
"This disposal was an overhang in the stock price for some time given the speculation around this and more importantly, it allows the group to pay down its debt.
"In fact, if Verizon buys all of the holding company, it could spare Vodafone from paying as much as $35bn in taxes, another key positive of this proposed disposal."
The potential value of a deal compares with AOL's $164bn (£105bn) takeover of Time Warner in 2001 and Vodafone's own merger with German group Mannesmann in 2000 worth $185bn.