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Verizon, AT&T could partner to take over Vodafone -- report

The deal would see Verizon buy back the value Vodafone owns in its company, while AT&T would acquire all non-U.S. assets.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read
Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead
Verizon Wireless CEO Dan Mead Lynn La/CNET

Verizon and AT&T could be teaming up to make a huge bid for the world's second-largest mobile carrier, Vodafone.

The deal, if it's signed, would see Verizon and AT&T offer 260 pence ($3.93) per share for Vodafone, representing about a 40 percent premium on the company's share price, Financial Times is reporting today, citing "usually reliable people" who claim to have knowledge of the deal. If signed, Vodafone would be valued at $245 billion.

According to the Financial Times, the deal would be quite complex. Verizon would acquire the 45 percent stake Vodafone currently owns in its U.S. operations. The remainder of Vodafone's business outside of the U.S. would go to AT&T. Both of the U.S. carriers believe that partnering on the deal will make it more likely to get through regulatory hurdles and shares some of the massive risk they'd be taking on by signing such a huge deal, according to the Financial Times' sources.

Vodafone is the world's second-largest carrier behind China Mobile with 403 million customers. The company operates in a slew of countries around the world and has a strong presence in Europe. AT&T's inclusion in the deal would give the company its long-awaited entree into the European market. Verizon would finally be able to control its own operation without oversight from Vodafone.

There have been rumblings that Verizon was maneuvering to end its relationship with Vodafone. Reports last month suggested Vodafone and Verizon were considering a wide range of options, including merging their two operations or simply going their separate ways. Those talks, however, hadn't yet progressed to substantial negotiation, according to those reports.

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao prompted a bit more speculation in February when he answered "I don't know" regarding the possibility of Vodafone's stake in Verizon to shift in a year's time. He added that his company was willing to keep an open mind "on everything."

Both Verizon and AT&T declined CNET's request for comment on the Vodafone report.

Update, 11:08 p.m. PT: In a brief regulatory filing later Tuesday, Verizon denied that it has plans to buy Vodaofone, either on its own or with a bidding partner. Read more here.