AT&T says it does not intend to make a bid for Vodafone

AT&T's CEO, Randall Stephenson, has reportedly made use of the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss various regulatory issues with European regulators including M&A, although on Monday the US operator denied rumours that it intends to made a bid for Vodafone.

Earlier reports had suggested that AT&T was stepping up work on a £60 billion (€72 billion or $98.89 billion) bid for Vodafone Group, but the US group moved swiftly to deny this.

"AT&T notes the recent speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Vodafone Group Plc," AT&T said in a short statement. "At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone."

Reuters noted that the statement to the London Stock Exchange rules out AT&T from buying Vodafone for the next six months, although the group can still make an offer if Vodafone's board agrees to it, or if a third party enters the fray.

Sky News reported over the weekend that Stephenson met Neelie Kroes, vice president of the European Commission responsible for Europe's Digital Agenda, to discuss a number of regulatory issues, including how receptive the Commission would be to a potential bid for a major European player.

AT&T has made no secret of its interest in the European market as it faces growing competition on its domestic market, and it has long been speculated that the operator had its sights set on the UK giant.

The US operator is also well aware that it would have to overcome tough regulatory conditions to achieve its ambitions to tap into Europe's growing mobile broadband market.

Vodafone is meanwhile focusing on its £7 billion "Project Spring" network investment programme that was announced after agreement was reached to sell its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon. Vodafone and Verizon will both hold shareholder meetings on Tuesday to approve the $130 billion deal.

The latest speculation is that Vodafone is already in talks with its next target, Ono in Spain, according to a Bloomberg report on Monday.

Meanwhile separate reports over the weekend also suggested that China Mobile is interested in buying a stake in Vodafone in order to set up a joint venture with the company. Citing unidentified sources, the Mail on Sunday said the Chinese giant is looking at a stake of between 5 and 20 per cent.

For more:
- see this Sky News article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this Mail on Sunday article
- see this separate Bloomberg article
- see this Reuters article

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