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Verizon to pay Vodafone $130B for stake in Verizon Wireless

Deal for partner's 45 percent stake in the wireless joint venture is the third largest corporate acquisition ever.

A Verizon Wireless store in Arlington, Texas.
Verizon Wireless

After years of talks and speculation, Verizon Communications has reached a deal to acquire Vodafone's stake in their Verizon Wireless joint venture for $130 billion.

The deal is the third largest corporate acquisition ever, behind Vodafone's $183 billion deal for Mannesmann AG in 1999 and AOL's $164 billion deal for Time Warner the next year. Under the terms of the deal announced Sunday, Verizon will pay $60.2 billion in stock and $58.9 billion in cash for Vodafone's 45 percent share.

"This transaction will enhance value across platforms and allow Verizon to operate more efficiently, so we can continue to focus on producing more seamless and integrated products and solutions for our customers," Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said in a statement. "We believe full ownership will provide increased opportunities in the enterprise and consumer wireline markets."

Although the US wireless market provided an important hedge against its struggling European operations, Vodafone's exit from the market is the best move for the company, analysts said.

"The timing of the sale, which has been the subject of speculation for years, appears shrewd," analysts at CCS Insight said. "Although Verizon continues to show strong performance, recent merger and acquisition activity in the US points to the emergence of stronger competitors. Further, although Verizon resumed dividend payments to Vodafone in 2011, future pay-outs are not assured."

Verizon has for years sought to buy out Vodafone's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, which is the No. 1 wireless provider in the United States and the fastest-growing and most profitable part of Verizon. However, Vodafone reportedly sought a better return from the asset.

Over the past few months, it appeared that the two companies were in talks over a buyout deal that could cost Verizon more than $100 billion, but those talks appeared to stall. In March, it was reported that the two companies were having informal discussions that included talk of a buyout as well as a possible merger. And in April, Verizon reportedly hired banking and legal advisers to put together a $100 billion bid for Vodafone's share of the company.