Sarin-led Vodafone could be biggest mobile firm in US

June 5th, 2008 - 9:53 pm ICT by IANS  

London, June 5 (IANS) In what could be Chief Executive Arun Sarin’s swansong, Britain’s Vodafone was Thursday said to be in the final stages of a $27 billion deal that would make it part of the biggest mobile phone company in the US. Vodafone confirmed Thursday that US-based Verizon Wireless, in which it has a 45 percent stake, is in advanced talks to buy Alltel Corp - America’s fifth-largest mobile phone operator.

The deal that would make Verizon Wireless the top US wireless service ahead of AT&T.

“Vodafone confirms that Verizon Wireless is in advanced discussions regarding the potential acquisition of Alltel Corp,” Vodafone said. “There is no assurance that a transaction will be forthcoming.”

The deal would be one of the last to be concluded by Vodafone’s Indian-born Chief Executive Arun Sarin before he steps down July 29 after five years at the helm.

Together, Verizon and Alltel would command a mobile phone subscription base of 80.4 million across the US compared to AT&T’s 71.4 million subscribers.

A tie-up is expected to boost the value of Vodafone’s stake in Verizon, which Sarin fought hard to keep despite calls from some shareholders to realise the value of the holding.

The value of the holding is said to have doubled to nearly $60 bn in the past three to four years.

Meanwhile, Vodafone is also trying to increase its stake in the South African mobile operator Vodacom.

Vodafone Group, which currently holds a 50 percent share in Vodacom, is looking to purchase a further 12.5 percent of the company from Telkom South Africa which currently holds the other 50 percent.

Vodafone has reportedly offered $2.5 billion for the additional stake on the condition that Telkom releases its remaining 37.5 percent by unbundling those shares to its shareholders.

Analysts say securing control of Vodacom is critical to Vodafone’s African strategy.

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