A Verizon Ploy to Force Vodafone Sale of Verizon Wireless?

Verizon (NYSE: VZ  ) may be on the verge of making Vodafone (NASDAQ: VOD  ) an offer it can't refuse. Lowell McAdam, Verizon's CEO, suggested at an investors' meeting held earlier this week that the company might not distribute Verizon Wireless profits this year to its owners -- itself and Vodafone.

It's no secret that Verizon wants Vodafone's 45% share of Verizon Wireless for itself. There have been recent reports that the American company is preparing an offer of $100 billion to buyout its U.K.-based partner's stake. But The Wall Street Journal talked to people knowledgeable about the matter who believe Vodafone values its share at $130 billion.

Verizon may be thinking that if it turns off the dividend spigot, Vodafone would be forced to sell, perhaps at a better price. If Verizon does stop the flow of profits, it wouldn't be the first time. From 2005 until the beginning of 2012, Verizon, with its controlling 55%, had paid out nothing -- a point of contention between the companies.

Finally, though, the money started flowing into Vodafone -- over $8 billion worth. So the thought of Vodafone selling off its finally profitable asset has been a controversial topic among investors. One hedge fund, a Vodafone shareholder, has said it would be "insane" for Vodafone to sell the one bright spot in its "collection of modest success and abject failures."

Vodafone, then, could be in a difficult position. Even though it owns a valuable resource, it may feel forced to sell it off for less than it feels it's worth. But if it continues to hold onto its share of Verizon Wireless without seeing a return this year -- or indefinitely, if Verizon really feels like putting Vodafone on the rack -- what good is that asset?

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