Vodafone Group Plc has denied reports that it intends to sell its 45% stake in Verizon Wireless, its US joint venture with Verizon Communications, after speculation it was looking to offload its stake in order to fund a bid for a rival US mobile operator.
Vodafone holds "put" options that can be exercised in two tranches over the next four years, starting in July 2003. Vodafone could thus effectively force Verizon to purchase Vodafone's 45% stake, with the initial sale estimated to give Vodafone up to $10bn, depending on an independent valuation.
By selling its Verizon stake, Vodafone could restructure its strategy for the US market, where it does not enjoy a controlling stake in any local operator. Mooted possible takeover targets include VoiceStream, which Deutche Telekom is anxious to offload in order to reduce its debt burden, and AT&T Wireless Services.
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News source: The reg.