updated 7/16/2007 11:16:33 AM ET 2007-07-16T15:16:33

Vodafone Group PLC on Monday denied a newspaper report it is considering making a $160 billion bid for its U.S. partner in the wireless phone business, Verizon Communications Inc.

The Financial Times reported earlier that the company was considering making an offer, but cautioned that a bid may not emerge. Any such deal would create a business worth about $300 billion.

But Vodafone said there were no such plans.

“Vodafone wishes to make it clear that it has no plans to make such an offer,” the company said in a statement.

Any deal would be aimed at putting an end to speculation over Vodafone’s 45 percent stake in New Jersey-based Verizon Wireless, according to the newspaper. Vodafone has been under pressure from a group of shareholders to deliver better value from the venture.

The newspaper said Vodafone was considering spinning off Verizon’s wireline business to private equity buyers for about $90 billion, which would make it the largest leveraged buyout ever.

New York-based UBS analyst John Hodulik said that an offer by Vodafone would be “extremely difficult” to get past U.S. regulators, especially since Verizon is a major provider of telecom services to the U.S. government. Private equity buyouts are also facing increasing congressional scrutiny.

Hodulik noted, however, that an acquisition of Verizon would eliminate an estimated $20 billion tax liability Vodafone would face if it sold the stake outright.

The $160 billion price tag reported by the newspaper suggests an offer of about $55 for each Verizon share.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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