Vodafone stock lifted by fresh AT&T takeover speculation

Vodafone's share price topped £2.05 (€2.56/$3.39) per share in early London trading Friday, on reports that U.S. carrier AT&T is again eyeing an acquisition of the UK-based operator.

The UK company's share price grew 1.2 per cent in initial trading, ranking the operator among the top performers on the Financial Times Stock Exchange (FTSE) 100 share index, which tracks the UK's top 100 companies by market capitalisation.

Vodafone's stock was lifted by reports that AT&T is preparing a takeover bid that could value the U.K. operator's shares at £3 each, the Financial Times reported.

AT&T ruled itself out of the running to acquire Vodafone in January, when it issued a statement to the London Stock Exchange denying reports that a takeover offer was imminent. That statement locked AT&T out of any attempt to buy Vodafone for six months, but that period that has now expired, leaving the U.S. operator theoretically clear to make a fresh move on its UK counterpart.

Analysts said in April that Vodafone is a good prospect for U.S. investors seeking exposure to the European telecoms market, financial newspaper Barron's reported. Although the cooling of AT&T's interest in Vodafone at that time resulted in a drop in the value of the latter's U.S.-listed American Depository Receipts, Barron's predicted that their worth could increase at least 20 per cent by April 2015.

Speculation of a pending AT&T offer is not deterring Vodafone's own global-expansion ambitions.

The company was this week linked to a potential deal to acquire one of Brazil's three main mobile operators, in a bid to enter the lucrative Latin American market. Telecom Italia subsidiary TIM Brasil was reported to be Vodafone's hot favourite.

In April, Vodafone took full control of its Vodafone India business, when it acquired a 10.97 per cent stake in the unit from pharmaceutical company Piramal Enterprises.

However, the operator remains at loggerheads with Indian tax authorities over its original deal to acquire Vodafone India from Hutchison in 2007. A deadline to appoint a neutral third-party arbitrator to rule on the tax dispute has been extended by a month, after Vodafone and India's tax officers failed to agree on a suitable party to conduct the negotiations.

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