Vodafone Group snubbed a preliminary offer by Iliad Group and private equity company Apax Partners to acquire its operation in Italy, stating it was not in the interest of shareholders.

In a stock market statement Vodafone confirmed rumours it had received what it described as a highly preliminary, non-binding indication of interest for a complete buyout of Vodafone Italy, but had rejected it.

“The Board and management of Vodafone remain focused on delivering shareholder value through a combination of its organic growth strategy over the medium-term and ongoing portfolio optimisation.”

“Vodafone continues to pragmatically pursue several value accretive in-market consolidation opportunities to deliver sustainable market structures in its major European markets, including Italy.”

The response comes after growing speculation about a bid from Iliad owner Xavier Neil for the operation, with Financial Times reporting the offer was in the region of €11 billion.

Vodafone CEO Nick Read last week asserted the company was proactively seeking consolidation in a number of countries, days after reports activist investor Cevian Capital was pushing the operator to restructure its portfolio.

In its fiscal Q3 2022 (calendar Q4 2021) Italy was one of only two Vodafone reporting segments to post service revenue declines, with the market described by Read as “hypercompetitive”.