LONDON (The Deal) -- Amid persistent speculation, AT&T (T) on Monday, Jan. 27, said it has no plans to make an offer for U.K. rival Vodafone Group (VOD) but didn't entirely close the door on an approach.
"At the request of the U.K. Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone. Accordingly, AT&T is bound by the restrictions under Rule 2.8 of the U.K. Takeover Code," the Dallas company said.
Outlets including Sky News said AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson had met with European Commission Vice President Nellie Kroes to discuss the possible regulatory response to moves including a Vodafone bid. The article was one of a series to link AT&T and Vodafone as the once-monopoly provider begins to look outside the U.S. for growth.
The Takeover Code rule referenced in the statement now prohibits AT&T from bidding for Vodafone within six months under most circumstances but AT&T could make an offer if another suitor appears. Most reports said AT&T was months away from a formal approach anyway and Monday's statement won't therefore necessarily kill speculation. Kroes, who is the EU's digital commissioner, and Stephenson reportedly met while in Davos for the World Economic Forum.
Vodafone shares tumbled 5.4% in late morning trade following the announcement. The stock slid 12.50 pence to 220.05 pence, valuing Vodafone at 104.7 billion pounds ($172.95 billion).
Vodafone's nine-figure market cap would make any deal difficult for AT&T, which has a slightly lower - albeit also nine-figure - valuation.
Analysts have said a takeover would certainly give AT&T international heft but would also saddle it with problematic Vodafone businesses in southern Europe with little leeway for extra investment.