LONDON -- Following fresh speculation of selling its 45% interest in Verizon Wireless to joint-venture partner Verizon (NYSE: VZ ) over the weekend, investors in Vodafone (LSE: VOD ) (NASDAQ: VOD ) saw the value of their shares shoot up over 3%, or 6 pence, to 189.48 pence in early trade this morning -- just 1.5 pence off its five-year high.
Reports in The Sunday Times claimed that Vodafone "is now leaning toward making a clean break from America," which could bank as much as $135 billion, or 88 billion pounds if analysts' valuations of Verizon between $240 billion and $340 billion are correct -- leading to "one of the largest corporate transactions of all time."
A merger had previously thought to have been most likely, but this has been placed in doubt following Verizon shareholders airing their fears over exposure to Vodafone's exposure to troubled Europe.
It is understood that a sale could take place by this summer, with half of the potential profits going toward boosting its European operations and the other half providing a bumper payout for shareholders.
A Fool's-eye view
The hypothesis has caused much comment between investors; on The Motley Fool's Boards, member NK104 commented "why is there any need for VOD to do anything? It can just sit there and bank the dividends from Verizon Wireless, which Verizon needs as much or more than VOD. If Verizon wants anything else, then the ball is in its court."
Elsewhere on the thread, ScillyFool warned Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao not to "be railroaded into flogging the 'family silver' cheaply, which the current figure of [88 billion pounds] seems to me to be... Remember, you hold all the aces and someone like China Mobile or even Apple may be interested further down the road."
Vodafone's five-year high came in mid-August last year, when it reached 191 pence -- but looks set to surpass that in the coming days (if not hours!) as investors pile in hoping for that prospective cash windfall.
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