LONDON – Britain’s Vodafone PLC, one of the world’s largest cellphone companies, said Thursday that it was talking to Verizon Communications about selling its stake in Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 mobile carrier in the U.S.
The U.K. company is mulling options for its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. Verizon Communications Inc. owns the other 55 percent.
The partnership started in 2000, when what was then Bell Atlantic combined its East Coast wireless network with Vodafone’s operations on the West Coast. Vodafone had entered the U.S. market a year earlier by outbidding Bell Atlantic to buy AirTouch Communications Inc. of San Francisco.
Analysts say Verizon wants to pay around $100 billion for Vodafone’s stake, although reports suggest Vodafone is pressing for as much as $130 billion. At the higher price, it would be the second-highest acquisition deal on record, according to research firm Dealogic.
Verizon Communications’ stock rose $1.26, or 3 percent, to close at $47.82 on Thursday. It had jumped $3.55, or 7.6 percent, to $50.11 in premarket trading about an hour before the stock market opened. Meanwhile, Vodafone’s London-listed share price rose 8.8 percent to 2.06 pounds.
It has long been speculated that Vodafone, which is expanding in Europe, is interested in a U.S. exit. Verizon Communications has a long-standing interest in buying out its partner, but so far the two companies haven’t agreed on a price. Published reports say earlier talks on a sale broke down over price and tax concerns – and Vodafone stressed that there was no certainty a deal could be reached.