Vodafone bids US$35bn to acquire AT&T wireless


16 Feb 2004

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Global mobile network operator Vodafone has upped its bid for AT&T Wireless as the battle between Vodafone Group and Cingular Wireless intensifies for the possession of the third largest mobile operator in the US. Vodafone has bid US$35bn, or USD$13 a share for the company.

Cingular and Vodafone both made initial bids of roughly US$35bn, or about US$13 a share, and AT&T Wireless requested a new round of offers that were due Sunday morning.

The situation remains very fluid as negotiations continue, but people close to the situation say the new bids could bump the value of the offers to roughly US$38bn, or US$14 a share. After waiting until the last minute to jump in, Vodafone is being much more aggressive in pursuing the carrier than many observers had initially thought and now appears to be as determined as Cingular to win control of the US No. 3 wireless carrier. Japan’s NTT DoCoMo, which owns 16pc of AT&T Wireless, is understood to have decided against submitting a bid.

Vodafone wants to acquire AT&T Wireless so that it can extend its brand and services into the US. The UK headquartered operator owns a 45pc stake in another US wireless carrier Verizon Communications, but is planning to dispose of this shareholding to avoid anti-trust issues that most likely could arise.

However, US$35bn may not be enough and it is understood that AT&T Wireless has instructed both Vodafone and Cingular to sweeten their offers.

It is understood that Vodafone’s aggressive bids for AT&T Wireless have caused alarm bells amongst shareholders who fear a prolonged bidding war. This morning Vodafone stock fell on the FTSE.

By John Kennedy