Merger Rumors Rear Again at Vodafone Group

LONDON -- The latest news emerging from this protracted saga is that six major shareholders of Vodafone  (LSE: VOD  ) (NASDAQ: VOD  ) have declared that Verizon Communications  (NYSE: VZ  )  would need to stump up more than the $100 billion figure that's being bandied about to buy out Vodafone's 45% interest in Verizon Wireless.

Reuters has reported that an estimate closer to $120 billion would satisfy this group of key investors -- who own around 1.3 billion shares between them -- but if that failed to transpire, then they would prefer Verizon to launch a full-on merger for Vodafone, as they see the joint-venture stake as one of its main assets.

The beginning of March saw reports from Bloomberg state that representatives from the two Goliaths met as recently as December, at which the option of a full merger was discussed, but this was placed in doubt following Verizon shareholders airing their fears over Vodafone's exposure to troubled Europe.

The news comes after fresh reports last week that suggested the U.S. telecom company had hired advisors for a potential bid to bring its Verizon Wireless ownership under the one roof, thought to consist of a possible 50/50 cash-and-stock bid. But Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao is not thought to be under any pressure to sell its 45% interest, while the mooted $100 billion could incur a massive capital gains tax bill, and this is thought to be one of the main obstacles that has prevented the transaction up to now.

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