Vodafone, Verizon investors back $130 billion Verizon Wireless deal
By Paul Sandle and Sinead Carew
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - Shareholders of both Vodafone (VOD.L: Quote) and Verizon Communications Inc (VZ.N: Quote) approved Verizon's $130 billion takeover of their Verizon Wireless venture on Tuesday, paving the way for the third biggest deal in corporate history.
Vodafone shareholders voted for one of the biggest payouts ever as 71 percent of the deal's net proceeds - or $84 billion including stock - will be returned to Vodafone shareholders from the sale of Vodafone's 45 percent interest in Verizon Wireless to majority owner Verizon.
"This is the largest single return of value to shareholders in history," Vodafone Chairman Gerard Kleisterlee told the shareholders at a meeting in London.
He said it left Vodafone in a strong financial position and represented "the opening of an important new chapter in the history of Vodafone."
Lowell McAdam, Verizon chairman and CEO, said the purchase will give Verizon more financial flexibility to invest in new technologies. "This is critical because we believe that, when it comes to wireless growth, we are just getting started," McAdam said in a statement.
With Vodafone selling one of its largest divisions and the biggest U.S. wireless service, speculation has mounted that the British firm could itself become a bid target.
AT&T (T.N: Quote), the second largest U.S. mobile operator, on Monday ruled out a bid for Vodafone after being forced to make its intentions clear by Britain's takeover panel but bankers and analysts say it may still make a bid in the future.
When asked by an investor about AT&T's reported interest in buying Vodafone, Kleisterlee said: "I read the newspapers as you do, and I cannot comment on the speculation around Vodafone and AT&T at this point of time." Continued...