Verizon explores merger with Vodafone, report says

A merger is just one option as the two telecommunications giants explore what to do with their Verizon Wireless joint venture. Another option is to end it altogether.

CEO of Verizon Wireless, Dan Mead, during his keynote speech at CTIA 2012. Lynn La/CNET

Verizon and Vodafone want to square away their long-standing relationship -- tied together by Verizon Wireless -- this year, according a report from Bloomberg.

Verizon Wireless, which is jointly owned by Verizon and Vodafone, has long been a source of questions over when the two telco giants would resolve the arrangement. Verizon has for years sought to buy out Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless, while Vodafone has agitated for a better return from the fast-growing asset.

Verizon and Vodafone now are exploring a range of options, from ending the joint venture to merging the two companies. The two have discussed their options as recently as December, according to Bloomberg, which cited two unnamed people familiar with the talks. The scenario would involve Verizon shareholders taking a majority control of the combined company's stock.

Verizon also could buy out Vodafone's stake, which analysts, cited by Bloomberg, pegged to be valued at $115 billion.

Bloomberg, however, noted that the talks weren't formal discussions and hadn't progressed to substantial negotiations. More discussion is likely to resume this year, Bloomberg said. Verizon declined to comment on the report.

Verizon has long sought to take full control of Verizon Wireless, which is the fastest-growing and most profitable part of the company. What Verizon plans to do with Vodafone is a question that consistently comes up whenever an executive is taking questions from the investment community. Yesterday, Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo answered a few questions about a potential resolution, but offered little insight.

There already has been a lot of deal-making in the wireless industry, with SoftBank poised to take control of Sprint Nextel, as well as T-Mobile USA (a unit of Germany's Deutsche Telekom) acquiring MetroPCS.

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