What: Shares of European telecom provider VimpelCom (NASDAQ:VEON) soared nearly 16% Wednesday on rumors that it was close to merging its Italian assets with CK Hutchinson.
So what: VimpelCom shares have slumped sharply over the past year due to its exposure to the highly volatile Russian market, but today's news is turning Wall Street's attention to the company's growth opportunities elsewhere. Specifically, a combination of VimpelCom's Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA and CK Hutchinson's 3 Italia would create a provider with more than 30 million customers, triggering optimism that such a strong position in Italy would help offset much of its problematic Russian exposure.
Now what: Today's "buzz" hasn't been officially confirmed by either VimpelCom or CK, so sitting on the sidelines seems like the prudent move for now. "There can be no assurances that an agreement will be signed and any transaction would be subject to, among other things, achieving satisfactory debt levels and obtaining all required corporate and regulatory approvals," VimpelCom CEO Jean-Yves Charlier said back in May. Given that Italy remains the last major European telecom market that hasn't been consolidated, however, I'd certainly keep an eye on the story as a possible game-changer for VimpelCom.