Spanish newspaper El Mundo reported Monday morning that Spain’s government was blocking a "friendly takeover" bid worth nearly $94 billion and more than $69 billion in debt. But a Telefónica spokesperson told the Wall Street Journal: "There has been no approach nor any expression of interest, in writing or verbally."
El Mundo said the government blocked the deal because of the important role Telefónica plays in Spain’s economy, strategically and symbolically. AT&T reportedly suspended its acquisition attempt after getting the news. There’s been no public comment from the U.S. phone giant.
Telefónica, one of the world’s largest telcos, with a major presence not only in Europe but in Latin America, has piled up debt as Spain’s economy has struggled mightily over the past few years.
Whether true or not, the speculation comes as no surprise. It was widely reported earlier this year that AT&T would consider buying a major European operator if the price and timing are right. The carrier’s options for a significant acquisition in the U.S. essentially grounded to a halt a year and a half ago when after it became clear it wouldn’t be approved AT&T abandoned its efforts to acquire T-Mobile USA, America’s fourth-largest wireless operator.
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