updated 03:46 pm EST, Sun January 26, 2014
Discussions could lead to $99 billion acquisition of European carrier
[Updated with AT&T comment] AT&T could be looking towards a purchase of Vodafone in the future, with reports that the company is talking to European regulators over a potential acquisition in the region of £60 billion ($99 billion). AT&T CEO and chairman Randall Stephenson is said to have met with EU Telecoms Commissioner Neelie Kroes at the World Economic Forum, with a possible acquisition of the UK carrier reportedly discussed.
Sources of Sky News claim the two talked about the various issues relating to a takeover bid of an EU carrier. Stephenson is also said to have discussed with Joaquin Almunia, the EU competition commissioner, though formal talks between the two were apparently denied. The discussions with regulators could be linked to suggestions that the overreaching surveillance activities of the NSA could force European government officials to heavily scrutinize any potential AT&T deal.
A Vodafone Store
Despite the possibility of an acquisition, AT&T has not yet approached Vodafone over the matter, but instead is examining its potential financial options. Report sources claim AT&T has been advised to wait until after Vodafone has completed the sale of its Verizon Wireless stake to Verizon, something expected to complete by the 21st of February.
AT&T has been planning to enter Europe for a considerable amount of time, with earlier rumors suggesting that the carrier could be looking to the continent as a marketplace with a high handset turnover. The continued reliance on voice and SMS-based revenues by European carriers could prompt AT&T into offering plans based more on data usage, as well as upgrading the 4G networks of any potential acquisition partner.
If AT&T did take over Vodafone, it would result a company with a market value in excess of £150 billion ($248 billion).
Update: AT&T has released a statement denying the potential acquisition, after a request by the UK Takeover Panel. Under Rule 2.8 of the UK Takeover Code, AT&T admits it will not be able to make an offer on the carrier for six months, though this can be reversed by Vodafone's board or if a third-party places a bid.