Verizon Wireless, the joint venture between American telecom power Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) and England-based global telecom giant Vodafone (NYSE: VOD ) , does not automatically get its monetary due from majority partner Verizon. The 55% of Verizon Wireless that Verizon controls gives the Yanks the right to dole out to the JV whatever dividend it deems appropriate -- if any at all.
Between 2000 and 2005, an annual dividend was regularly paid out to the partners. From 2005 until last January, however, there was none. Why? Because that money might be needed for capital expenditures and acquisitions, as then new Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam told the Financial Times last September. "... [W]e may end up buying spectrum and we may end up buying another company and if there are needs for that cash in Verizon Wireless, that is where it'll be generated and that is where it'll be spent ..."
Verizon did indeed make a large splash last December when it agreed to pay $3.9 billion to several cable companies for a large cache of wireless spectrum. Verizon Wireless must have been doing very well indeed in the cash generation department, because even with that deal it was still able to hand out a $10 billion dividend to the partnership, $4.5 billion going to Vodafone.
So could there be a second dividend just half a year later? That's what the Sunday Times reported would happen. The paper did not cite any sources, however.
Such a dividend would give Vodafone investors a nice windfall. Of the $4.5 billion Vodafone received in January, $3.13 billion was passed on to shareholders as a special dividend. The same payout would occur this time too if the report proves true. That would come out to around $0.63 a share in addition to Vodafone's regular dividend.
Remember, this special dividend is still just a rumor for now. For more tangible dividends check out the Fool's special report, Secure Your Future With 9 Rock-Solid Dividend Stocks. It's free!