Vodafone set to announce $166 billion Verizon sale: Reports

A combination of pictures created on Aug 29, 2013 shows the logo for Verizon Wireless (bottom) in Washington DC on June 2, 2010 and the logo of mobile network provider Vodafone in Hanover March,14 2007. British telecoms giant Vodafone has agreed to s
A combination of pictures created on Aug 29, 2013 shows the logo for Verizon Wireless (bottom) in Washington DC on June 2, 2010 and the logo of mobile network provider Vodafone in Hanover March,14 2007. British telecoms giant Vodafone has agreed to sell its US wireless joint venture stake to partner Verizon in a deal worth US$130 billion (S$166 billion), newspapers reported on Sunday. -- FILE PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - British telecoms giant Vodafone has agreed to sell its US wireless joint venture stake to partner Verizon in a deal worth US$130 billion (S$166 billion), newspapers reported on Sunday.

Vodafone on Sunday confirmed that it was in advanced talks with Verizon Communications "regarding the disposal of Vodafone's US group", but played down press reports that the deal was complete.

A company statement warned there was "no certainty that an agreement will be reached," but said a further announcement would be made "as soon as practicable".

Verizon's board of directors will meet on Monday to finalise the terms of the agreement that would see Vodafone sell its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless, giving the US fixed-line company full control after 13 years of shared ownership, the Financial Times reported.

The business daily added that Vodafone's board had already met on Sunday to approve the deal, which the company said would "substantially comprise a mixture of Verizon common stock and cash."

The Guardian reported that the split between shares and cash would be roughly 50-50.

The Wall Street Journal called it the second most important acquisition of all time after Vodafone's takeover of Mannesmann in 1999 for around US$203 billion.

The US daily claimed that the new deal would be announced "Monday afternoon", quoting a person close to the negotiations.

Verizon spokesman Bob Varettoni on Sunday told AFP that he would not comment on the latest reports.

Created in 2000, Verizon Wireless operates over 100 millions lines and employs 73,4000 staff.

Headquartered in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, the company generated revenues of US$75.9 billion in 2012, according to its website.

Verizon has been looking to take full control of the joint venture for many years but negotiations have floundered on the sale price with the US company hoping to pay around US$100 billion for Vodafone's stake.

The deal is likely to be structured so that Vodafone is shielded from a hefty tax hit "Vodafone would be hit with a huge tax bill, they are talking about US$30-40 billion," Morningstar analyst Allan Nichols said.

"But there are some ways around and under US$10 billion would be more likely," he added.

Verizon is reported to be financing the deal through a mixture of loans and corporate bonds created by JP Morgan, Morgan Stanley, Barclays and Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Barclays said in a note that it believes "$60bn in debt financing is feasible." The deal would help Vodafone, which is looking to bounce back from hefty losses, to pay down its debt, allow it to consider making further acquisitions and to return money to shareholders, analysts said.

Hit by eurozone strains, Vodafone in June launched a 7.7-billion-euro (S$13 billion) cash offer for Kabel Deutschland, Germany's biggest cable operator.

"Speculation had increased in the wake of the Kabel deal that a deal (for Verizon Wireless) could be in the offing as the company looks to free up cash to push down its debt pile and acquire some more fixed line assets," said Michael Hewson, senior analyst at traders CMC Markets UK.

Given Vodafone's size on the British stock market, the cash injection has been called a "massive quantitative easing injection" for the country's economy.