AT&T, the US telecoms giant, has ruled out an imminent bid for Vodafone after persistent deal talk drove the UK mobile operator's shares up in recent months.
Reports at the weekend said Randall Stephenson, AT&T's chief executive, made an initial approach to Vodafone at the Davos meeting of business leaders and that he also put the idea to the EU telecoms commissioner Neelie Kroes at the event.
In a statement to the stock exchange, AT&T said the UK Takeover Panel had asked it to clear up the matter.
"AT&T Inc notes the recent speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Vodafone Group Plc," it said. "At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone."
After Vodafone agreed to sell its stake in its US wireless joint venture to partner Verizon for $130bn (£79bn), speculation mounted that the UK company was now small enough to be taken over. AT&T is said to have had its eye on Vodafone for years.
The US company said it was bound by rule 2.8 of the Takeover Code, which says that unless there is a material change – such as a bid by someone else – then a company that rules out an offer cannot make a new approach within six months.
Vodafone shares closed at 232.5p on Friday – up 23% since the end of August and not far off a 52-week high reached on 19 January. They were down almost 6% at 219p on Monday morning.
A report overnight said Vodafone was in talks to buy Spain's biggest cable operator Grupo Corporativo ONO in a deal that could scupper the Spanish company's planned flotation, which could value it at more than £5bn.
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