signaled Monday that it won't raise its bid for
The giant New York telco, which agreed in February to buy MCI and then raised its bid last month in light of repeated offers from rival
, said it would drop out of the bidding for the No. 2 long-distance operator if MCI's board deems Qwest's latest bid superior.
"Verizon believes that the decision facing MCI is not about the math of a particular moment in time," Verizon said in its latest
letter to the MCI board. "It is about good business judgment, the best interests of shareowners and the long-term viability of the new company.
"Based on these criteria, Qwest has submitted what we believe to be an inferior offer. If the MCI Board, capitulating to Qwest's artificial deadline, declares this bid to be 'superior,' it would seem to us that the decision-making process is being driven by the interests of short-term investors rather than the company's long-term strength and viability. Should this occur, we would no longer be interested in participating in such a process."
The news comes as MCI considers an $8.9 billion stock-and-cash bid from Qwest. MCI agreed last month to accept Verizon's sweetened $7.5 billion stock-and-cash deal, citing the company's financial and operational strength relative to Qwest.
Qwest raised the stakes last week by saying it would withdraw its offer if MCI failed to reply by tomorrow.
On Monday, Verizon got into the chicken game as well. Its CEO, Ivan Seidenberg, said in a letter to MCI's board:
We observe that Qwest's artificial deadlines and attacks on your integrity, process and judgment may appeal to a vocal minority of MCI's shareholders; however, we believe they should not be permitted to stampede the Board into a rushed decision that has no meaning in the context of the thorough and disciplined process it has pursued.
The comments are but the latest in a long series of verbal salvos among the players. Qwest has criticized MCI's board for seemingly favoring Verizon, while Verizon has repeatedly mocked Qwest's postmerger projections and financial prospects.
On Monday, MCI slipped 29 cents to $25, while Verizon rose 56 cents to $35.75 and Qwest added 17 cents to $3.81.