AT&T still considering Vodafone takeover

Even though AT&T said earlier this week that it had no immediate plans to acquire UK-based Vodafone, the US carrier may consider a takeover of the company later this year, according to a report.

Marguerite Reardon Former senior reporter
Marguerite Reardon started as a CNET News reporter in 2004, covering cellphone services, broadband, citywide Wi-Fi, the Net neutrality debate and the consolidation of the phone companies.
Marguerite Reardon
2 min read
An AT&T store in Manhattan. CNET/Marguerite Reardon

AT&T may still have its eye on a merger with UK telecom provider Vodafone, according to a report from Bloomberg News, which cites people familiar with the situation.

Even though the Dallas-based carrier stated earlier this week that it is not interested in buying Vodafone Group, which offers telecom services in 21 countries, the company is still interested in Vodafone and may make a bid for the company. It likely won't make a move for at least six months. That's part of the requirement under the UK's Panel on Takeovers and Mergers.

AT&T was forced to make a decision on a bid for Vodafone this week after several news reports surfaced that AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson was meeting with European Union telecommunications officials in Davos, Switzerland. According to the news reports, Stephenson discussed AT&T's interest in acquiring European telecom operations. AT&T has noted publicly its interest in the European market.

The UK's Panel on Takeovers and Mergers asked AT&T to clarify its intentions. Under the panel's rules, companies interested in takeover bids must declare their intentions and make a firm offer to its acquisition target within 28 days. The other option is to walk away from a deal for at least six months.

The Bloomberg report indicates that AT&T officials were not ready to make an offer under such a tight deadline. But the news agency cites unnamed sources who say this doesn't mean that AT&T has lost interest in acquiring Vodafone.

During AT&T's fourth-quarter earnings call yesterday, Stephenson said AT&T is still interested in Europe. And he said the declaration on Tuesday that stated it wasn't bidding for Vodafone "speaks for itself."

AT&T did hedge itself a bit when it made the statement. It said it "reserves the right to announce or participate in an offer or possible offer for Vodafone."

AT&T could override the six-month no-offer rule by getting approval from Vodafone's full board of directors, Bloomberg stated. The news agency's sources also said that AT&T could change its mind about an offer.