Verizon eyes roughly $100 billion bid for Vodafone's wireless stake

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Verizon Communications Inc has hired advisers to prepare a possible $100 billion bid to take full control of Verizon Wireless from its partner Vodafone Group Plc, two people familiar with the matter said.

Verizon is contemplating a roughly 50:50 cash and stock bid for the 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless it does not already own, an asset it has long coveted, the sources said. It has not put a proposal to Vodafone yet but has hired banking and legal advisers for a possible offer, the sources said late Wednesday.

There are no guarantees that Vodafone will be interested in a deal or that any bid will materialize, the sources said. But they said Verizon was ready to push aggressively and hoped to start discussions with Vodafone soon for a friendly agreement. Verizon is also prepared to take a bid public if the British company does not engage in talks, one of the sources said.

Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni declined to comment. Vodafone declined to comment. Verizon Wireless was not available for comment.

Shares in Vodafone, the world's second-largest mobile operator, were up 1.6 percent in London, while Verizon shares were up 1.8 percent in New York.

Verizon, which has made little secret of its wish to buy out its British partner in the biggest U.S. mobile operator, has ramped up the pressure in recent months, saying publicly that it believed it could buy the asset in a tax-efficient way. The company's move to hire advisers and the sources' revelation of a price range highlight the company's seriousness about doing a deal.

At $100 billion, a deal would be the third-largest acquisition ever, according to Thomson Reuters data, and would come amid a new round of consolidation in the industry.

Investors say the conditions for a deal have improved as a result of Verizon's strong results, its share price gains, and low interest rates. Verizon shares are valued at 17.9 times forward earnings, compared with 11.8 for Vodafone. The sources said Verizon is confident that it can raise about $50 billion of bank financing to fund a deal.

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