At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T issued a statement that it does not intend to make a takeover bid for Vodafone Group following recent speculation.
The statement means the US operator is barred from bidding for its UK counterpart for six months, according to restrictions under Rule 2.8 of the UK Takeover Code.
There are exceptions to this rule, including if Vodafone’s board agrees to ignore AT&T’s statement, a rival bidder enters the fray, or the UK authorities rule that circumstances have changed.
AT&T was apparently still interested in Vodafone as recently as last week, when CEO Randall Stephenson spoke informally with Neelie Kroes, Europe’s digital chief, at the World Economic Forum in Davos, according to Bloomberg. On the agenda was possible acquisitions, sources said.
Reports from the end of last year cited AT&T’s interest in Vodafone, reasoning that the UK operator’s $130 billion exit from Verizon Wireless simplified any future deal.
And publicly, AT&T’s Stephenson had expressed interest in European expansion, given that the region’s relatively low level of 4G penetration left room for growth.