Updated from 9:14 a.m. EST
U S West
surged Thursday following reports that
made separate takeover offers for the two phone companies, in deals that could total more than $100 billion.
US West added to the speculation about the companies late Thursday, saying it might consider "any additional transaction" as long as it could complete its pending merger with Qwest.
Qwest's stock climbed 3 3/16, or 5.9%, to close regular trading at 3 3/16 at 57, and they rose to 60 in after-hours trading, according to Instinet. U S West jumped 6 7/8, or 9.9%, to close at 76 1/2, and remained steady in after-hours trading. Deutsche Telekom closed up 13/16, or 0.8%, at 93 1/16.
The Wall Street Journal
reported Thursday that negotiations among the three companies continued in Denver, where both Qwest and U S West are based, but could still fall apart. A deal between the three phone companies would cap a week of bickering over relations between Qwest and recently acquired U S West and give the German phone company a long-sought position in the U.S. long-distance market.
Neither Qwest nor U S West were forthcoming about the details of any talks with Deutsche Telekom.
But U S West for the first time indicated that it might consider an alternative to its merger with Qwest if the terms were attractive enough.
"We remain committed to completing our merger with Qwest on an expedited basis," said Al Spies, vice president and chief financial officer of U S West.
But in a somewhat vague statement, issued after the stock market closed, Spies said the company might consider other options. He said that U S West would consider another deal that would be in "the best interest of shareholders," as long as it does not delay or jeopardize the U S West-Qwest merger.
"Moreover," Spies said, "any subsequent business combination must also be better than or consistent with our existing transaction with Qwest," said Spies.
Qwest remained mum on whether it is in negotiations with Deutsche Telekom.
"We are still standing by what we said on Sunday, that we are in talks with a major telecom," said Michael Tarpey, a Qwest spokesman. The friction with U S West was exaggerated and the deal is still moving to regulatory approval, Tarpey added.
A spokesman for Deutsche Telekom would not comment on the talks.
Earlier Thursday, Christine Nairne, an analyst at
, gave the proposed Qwest-U S West merger a 55% chance of success.
"I think the merger is challenging but plausible," said Nairne, who rates Qwest a strong buy, but does not cover the others. "The challenging part is how to work out an arrangement suitable for all parties, specifically U S West. I think U S West would only be bought out of a merger at a very high price." E*Offering hasn't done underwriting for any of the companies.
Qwest only acknowledged it was in talks with a major telecommunications company when U S West demanded that its merger partner reveal any discussions with an outside party, saying it would hold Qwest responsible for any damage to their $36 billion deal.
Some analysts speculated that Deutsche Telekom would be reluctant to merge with both Qwest and U S West when relations between the two U.S. companies deteriorated.
U S West's chairman, Sol Trujillo, said he would step down after the merger with Qwest, citing differences with his Qwest counterpart over strategy and responsibilities.
Qwest chairman and chief executive Joseph Nacchio returned the volley, noting U S West's past reputation for poor customer service.
Both Qwest and U S West stock have fallen in recent days as investors were uncertain of the outcome of the