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AT&T Running Out of Time for Europe Deal

By Kimberly Koerth
March 17, 2014 - News

**Editor's Note: Please click here for a recap of the biggest communications mergers in Q4 2013.**

AT&T has expressed interest in a wireless deal in Europe, potentially with Vodafone Group, but it has also hinted that the window for a deal may be closing. Either way, Vodafone seems unconcerned about AT&T's plans.

“We are focused on our own strategy and our own story," Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao is quoted in the Wall Street Journal as saying. “We are starting to see the fruits of our strategy in terms of broadband net growth and revenue growth."

Vodafone said it is accelerating its plan to be a “unified communications" player following its $10 billion buy of Ono, according to the Journal. The Ono buy is Vodafone's first acquisition since it sold its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon Communications for $130 billion.

Analysts say that while the Ono deal expands Vodafone's European footprint, the company's European expansion plan might be arriving too late with the prices of its targets having risen too high. For example, Ono is valued at 7.5 times its 2013 profit.

According to the WSJ article, AT&T would benefit from a Vodafone acquisition with 4G mobile broadband growth across Europe, but scale benefits would be limited due to size and purchasing power.

Despite speculation, AT&T told the U.K. government early this year that it didn't intend to bid for Vodafone. That was before Vodafone completed its Verizon transaction.  AT&T can't approach Vodafone until the summer anyway, although talks can occur sooner if the European communications giant initiates them.

AT&T, which recently wrapped its $1.2 billion acquisition of Leap Wireless dba Cricket Communications, was foiled in its attempt to buy T-Mobile USA a couple of years ago. That's why many have speculated that the carrier will need to go overseas if it wants to buy another major operator.

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