The news has been resurfacing like a bad penny since 2002--Vodafone wants out of Verizon Wireless. This time its partner, Verizon Communications, said it is happy to oblige, saying it would even finance the deal that would give Vodafone $44.6 billion. There is no doubt the wireless powerhouse, which added 2 million customers in the fourth quarter, has created tremendous value for both companies. But for Vodafone, the world's largest mobile operator, there simply isn't much synergy there, despite attempts from Verizon Wireless and Vodafone to launch international products. Vodafone is a GSM operator deploying W-CDMA in all of its global properties under the Vodafone brand. Verizon Wireless launched EV-DO, under the Verizon name.
But there's really no other option for Vodafone. Verizon Wireless is significantly more valuable now than just two years ago--increasing by $10 million a year. Meanwhile, other GSM U.S. operators appear unavailable. T-Mobile is happy to keep T-Mobile USA because it fueled the company's growth in 2005. It would probably only let go at a steep premium, and Vodafone would still have to pump a bunch of money into it get it up to speed on the 3G side. Vodafone lost its $38 billion bid for AT&T Wireless to Cingular in 2004.
We'll see how much longer Vodafone can hang on. Big investors such as Standard Life Investments want Vodafone to sell its holdings and give the proceeds to shareholders. Vodafone has seen its share price fall by about 12 percent during the past year, and investors would like to see the company reduce its global aspirations a bit to just Europe and Asia. However, emerging markets are on Vodafone's radar screen these days because of the growth potential, and the operator has already begun its usual strategy of purchasing established operators and gradually increasing its share. - Lynnette