Waiting game - Vodafone/AT&T/Verizon

05 April 2013 | Guest

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Some say the touted Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone tie-up was a little too close to April fool’s day to be taken seriously. Certainly, it seemed far-fetched, but when the Financial Times reported earlier this week that US behemoths Verizon and AT&T were set to make a joint break buy acquisition of UK-based power group Vodafone, it did manage to open up not just one but two separate cans of worms.

Some say the touted Verizon, AT&T, and Vodafone tie-up was a little too close to April fool’s day to be taken seriously. Certainly, it seemed far-fetched, but when the Financial Times reported earlier this week that US behemoths Verizon and AT&T were set to make a joint break buy acquisition of UK-based power group Vodafone, it did manage to open up not just one but two separate cans of worms.

Verizon has moved swiftly, as expected, and been vocal in its outright denial that it would team up with its largest rivals in Europe. The reported offer, at 260p per share, could have surmounted a total deal value of $245 billion, with the potential of making it the largest M&A deal in history.

It is not the best kept secret in the world, however, that Verizon wants to take full ownership of its wireless subsidiary, Verizon Wireless, of which Vodafone still owns 45%. Analysts have since predicted it will only be a matter of time before there is a development – and Capacity fully expects Vodafone chief Vittorio Colao and Verizon head Lowell McAdam thrashing out a deal in the very near future.

So where does this leave AT&T? It has almost been forgotten this week that AT&T is a vital piece of this newly created trio, and it is the company which has remained somewhat coy since the news broke.

There was no outright denial or any attempt to shun the idea that it would ever consider teaming up with Verizon in Europe. On all accounts it has actually given the entire industry the perception that they are indeed open for business in one of the world’s most volatile markets.

Richard Karpinski, senior analyst at Yankee Group says AT&T is “fishing around Europe and seemingly the rest of the world” in a bid to counter the effect of the increasing saturation of its North American domestic market. And following its failure to consolidate that very market by acquiring T-Mobile USA in 2011, it has dollars to burn.

Don’t be surprised if you see AT&T setting up shop in Europe at some point this year.