U.S. telecom giant Verizon Communications has made an informal approach to Vodafone Group Plc about buying the latter’s 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless for about $40 billion, British newspaper the Business reported on Sunday.
"We have made our interest in acquiring Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless clear," a Verizon source told the paper. "The ball is now in Vodafone’s court."
Verizon is under pressure to consolidate control of Verizon Wireless in the wake of AT&T’s planned acquisition of BellSouth, which will give AT&T complete control of top U.S. wireless company Cingular Wireless.
Verizon was not immediately available and Vodafone declined to comment on the matter.
Vodafone is in talks to sell a controlling stake in its struggling Japanese unit to Softbank Corp.
Sunday newspapers reported strife in the Vodafone boardroom after the company axed its marketing chief last week, one of several exits by directors closely identified with former Chief Executive Christopher Gent.
Citing sources close to the company, the Observer reported that outgoing Vodafone Chairman Ian MacLaurin, due to step down in July, tried to oust Chief Executive Arun Sarin at a recent board meeting in Madrid.
A Vodafone spokesman denied there was a boardroom rift.
"There is no showdown between the chairman and the chief executive," he said. "The CEO has the complete support of the board."
The Financial Mail on Sunday reported that venture capital groups were discussing an "audacious" $173.9 billion takeover of Vodafone, citing "senior City sources."
"No one’s committed and they are not sure there’s a way of doing it, but they are convinced of the potential value in a deal," one source told the paper.
"The problem is that no one could put up much more than 5 billion pounds in equity, and funding the rest would virtually drain the debt market, so they are looking at ways of leaving existing investors with a lot of the paper."