The Vodafone rumor du jour would certainly be a dramatic event, should it come true. FT’s Alphaville blog paraphrases ‘usually reliable people’ as saying that Verizon and AT&T are preparing a joint bid for Vodafone worth something in the neighborhood of $245B. Of course, ‘usually reliable people’ is a fairly general category which could be interpreted to include my dry cleaner and we are still dangerously close to April Fools day still, but then it the Financial Times here and such a deal isn’t entirely implausible.
Verizon has long wanted full control over Verizon Wireless, which Vodafone still owns 45% of. There have been steady rumors of a deal there, including a possible full buyout of Vodafone. But it hasn’t seemed as if Verizon wanted to go for the whole thing, and going just halfway has proved difficult. Bringing in a third party is certainly an interesting way to break up the logjam.
AT&T’s interest apparently is in Vodafone’s European assets, which would give it a mobile footprint there to expand on. I’m not sure where the African and Indian assets would wind up, but perhaps AT&T would find those of interest as well. Both AT&T and Verizon face regulatory problems in the US for anything that might make them more dominant than they already are, which may drive them to be more active internationally than they have been. Both have been focused largely on the US market for so long, it’s hard to envision them going on a global buying binge.
So from an opportunity standpoint, it is certainly plausible that in the wake of the T-Mobile USA fiasco AT&T might now be ready to go after some of the lower valuations abroad instead. However, next week we’ll probably hear a different Vodafone deal rumor that will put this one back on the back burner. I think this process has a while to go before an actual deal works its way through the chaos.