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Verizon moves to buy Vodafone's stake in Verizon Wireless

Verizon Communications is pursuing full ownership of Verizon Wireless by buying out Vodafone's stake.

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People walking by a branch of Vodafone in central London.
Britain's Vodafone PLC, one of the world's largest mobile phone companies, confirmed Thursday that it was in discussions with Verizon Communications to sell its operations in the United States.

Sang Tan/ AP Photo/ File

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Verizon Communications is back at the table to finally buy out the rest of its stake in Verizon Wireless from UK mobile carrier Vodafone Group PLC in what could be the third-biggest merger-and-acquisitions deal of all time.

Verizon, the number one U.S. mobile carrier, has made no secret of its desire to gain full ownership of a network that is growing fast and generating billions of dollars in free cash flow, but the companies have tussled over how to value such a deal.

Vodafone‚Äôs Chief Executive Vittorio Colao has bided his time, waiting for the optimal moment to sell the 45 percent stake in a deal that would leave the world's second largest mobile operator with assets in Europe and emerging markets such as India, Turkey and Africa.

Verizon and Vodafone were discussing a sale for around $130 billion in talks that had resumed a few weeks ago, according to a person familiar with the situation, who asked not to be named. The person said on Thursday that an announcement could come as soon as the first week of September. A second source said the announcement could come on Sept. 2.

A third person familiar with the matter cautioned that while the companies had made progress, some issues around taxes, price and structure would still need to be ironed out. There remained a chance that something could happen in the coming week, the source said.

If conditions remain as they are, financing would not be a problem, the source added, saying it would include syndicated loans and tiers of lenders.

Bloomberg also reported late on Wednesday that Verizon could pay as much as $130 billion and is working with several banks to raise $10 billion from each to finance about $60 billion of the deal. It said an announcement could come as soon as Sept. 2, citing two unnamed sources. ()

Reuters reported in April that Verizon had hired advisers for a possible $100 billion bid, an opening gambit that analysts and investors said was too low, putting the value of Vodafone's holding nearer $120 billion.

A statement from Vodafone on Thursday confirming talks sent its shares up 9 percent to a 12-year high of 207 pence as investors and analysts said a deal could finally be on the cards. It shares closed at 205.78 pence. Shares in Verizon, meanwhile, were up 3.2 percent in New York to $48.05 in early afternoon trade.

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