The Deal: For Verizon, Fewer Hang-ups This Time Around

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Talks between Vodafone Group ( VOD)and Verizon Communications ( VZ)over their U.S. wireless joint venture are practically a semi-annual event. Vodafone has been a willing seller of its minority stake in Verizon Wireless, and its New York partner a willing buyer, for a decade or so.

The potential for rising interest rates may increase the urgency for Verizon to get a deal done. While rates are still historically low, a purchase of Vodafone's 45% could still be accretive at a price of $130 billion. Changes in Vodafone's perspective may also make a deal more likely this time around.

"Vodafone needs money," if the U.K. wireless carrier wants to continue its strategy of combining wireline and wireless networks in Europe, said Roger Entner of Dedham, Mass., consultancy Recon Analytics.

Vodafone in June agreed to buy Kabel Deutschland Holding for ¿ 7.7 billion ($10.1 billion). A mega-payout from Verizon would give the London telecom an unrivaled war chest to consolidate other markets.

"They would have deeper pockets than everyone in Europe, than anyone in the world," Entner said, "and all they do is get rid of a noncore market." While it would be a regulatory impossibility, Entnet noted, in most European countries Vodafone could buy every single wireless carrier if the regulators would allow them.

Craig Moffett of Moffett Research suggested in a Thursday note that a diminished view of the U.S. wireless market could motivate Vodafone to exit the profitable JV. The U.S. market's revenue growth and margins may be the most attractive among developed countries, he noted, even with four national carriers.

"There is little prospect for things getting materially better for Verizon Wireless," he wrote, "and a meaningful chance that things get worse."

Vodafone's experience in Japan could inform its view of the U.S. In 2006, the company sold its Japanese carrier to SoftBank, whose chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son has ignited competition and lowered prices. Softbank has, of course, just taken a controlling stake in Sprint ( S)and rolled up the carrier's control of Clearwire.

"Vodafone's management may be looking at the U.S. and saying to itself, 'We've seen this movie before,'" he wrote.

Moffett suggested that even at $130 billion, with $60 billion in debt, a deal would be accretive for Verizon, "and perhaps very accretive." The debt and equity could be split 50-50, assuming a 4.5% interest rate and a Verizon stock price of $48.50 per share.

Verizon could pay 8 to 8.5 times EBITDA, Moffett estimated, and add 50 cents or 60 cents in earnings per share.

So ultimately the question isn't whether the deal is accretive, but whether it creates value in the longer term.

"Doubling down on the U.S. wireless at this point in the cycle, at these valuations strikes us as decidedly unappealing," Moffett wrote.

There is clear enthusiasm for the seemingly endless talks to reach a conclusion, something that has seemed unavoidable but also unattainable for much of the last decade.

Verizon shares gained 2.7% to close at $47.82 per share Thursday.

-- Written by Chris Nolter in New York

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