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Vodafone in talks to shed Verizon stake

– Britain’s Vodafone PLC, one of the world’s largest cellphone companies, confirmed Thursday that it was talking to Verizon Communications about selling its stake in Verizon Wireless, the No. 1 mobile carrier in the U.S.

The U.K. company is mulling its options for its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. Verizon Communications owns the other 55 percent.

Analysts have suggested that Verizon wants to pay around $100 billion for Vodafone’s stake, although reports have said that U.K. group is pressing for as much as $130 billion.

Verizon Communications’ stock rose $1.26, or 3 percent, to close at $47.82 on Wednesday. It had jumped $3.55, or 7.6 percent, to $50.11 in pre-market trading about an hour before the stock market opened.

Meanwhile Vodafone’s London-listed share price rose 8.8 percent Wednesday.

Vodafone, which has wide-ranging interests and is expanding in Europe, has long been rumored to be interested in a U.S. exit.

Talks on a sale earlier reportedly broke down over price and tax concerns – and Vodafone stressed that there was no certainty a deal could be reached.

But competition among cellphone providers and other companies moving into the cellphone space is pushing both companies toward a deal, said Ronald Klingebiel, a telecommunications specialist with Warwick Business School.

Vodafone also had little influence on Verizon Wireless’ day-to-day operations, which made its stake more of an investment than a base from which to expand into the U.S. market, analysts said.

“This would be a happy moment to exit,” Klingebiel said.

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