Merger mania must be back in style. Whether it's a private equity fund spending billions for a cash-rich conglomerate, or two competitors buying interests in each other, merging seems to be the way to go these days.
It's no surprise, then that giant U.S. telecom provider AT&T (NYSE: T) is also looking to partner with another foreign telecom firm. News began circulating earlier this week about AT&T and a partnership of America Movil (NYSE: AMX) and Telefonos de Mexico (NYSE: TMX), each aiming to acquire a third of Olimpia, a holding company with a controlling share of Italy's biggest phone company, Telecom Italia (NYSE: TI).
The three companies have collectively offered $6 billion for two-thirds of Olimpia. Shares of AT&T have been relatively unaffected by news of the offer, but shares of Telecom Italia have climbed roughly 13%, to 2.43 euro, on speculation that other bidders may raise the price.
AT&T already has an ownership interest in America Movil, but the companies have different interests in Telecom Italia. AT&T wants to broaden its business and develop more partners around the globe, particularly in Europe. The telecom giant wants toeholds in global markets, much like the U.K.'s Vodafone (NYSE: VOD), which has ownership interests in carriers in 27 different countries. (Among other things, it owns a a 45% stake in Verizon Wireless, with the other 55% controlled by Verizon Communications (NYSE: VZ).
America Movil is more interested in Telecom Italia's South American assets. It's rumored that the company had a part in an unsolicited bid for Telecom Italia's Brazilian unit, TIM Participacoes, earlier this year, but the offer was rejected. If this new deal goes through, American Movil would control a dominant position in the Brazilian wireless market against Spanish giant Telefonica (NYSE: TEF).
The Italian government may intervene in the change of ownership proposal, however, and other bidders -- particularly one group rumored to include Deutsche Telekom -- may challenge the deal with a bid of its own. However the deal plays out, the continued trend of globalization will make it important for any major telecom company to have broad partnerships around the world.
For related Foolishness:
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- Time to Answer the Vodafone
- The Best International Stock for 2007: America Movil
Fool contributor Dave Mock thinks the best mergers are of the ice cream and root beer kind. He owns no shares of the companies mentioned in this article. Dave is the author of The Qualcomm Equation. Vodafone is a Motley Fool Inside Value recommendation, while AT&T was a former Stock Advisor pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.