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Vodafone in talks to sell Verizon Wireless stake

British mobile phone giant Vodafone has confirmed talks with Verizon Communications aimed at selling its prized stake in US mobile operator Verizon Wireless. Such a deal could be the third-biggest in corporate history.

Vodafone confirmed on Thursday that it was in discussions with Verizon Communications regarding the possible disposal of Vodafone's 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless. Werizon Communications owns the rest.

The British mobile phone company, in a short release to the London Stock Exchange, also said that there was no certainty than an agreement would be reached.

Its announcement followed international media reports on Wednesday that Verizon and Vodafone had resumed talks over a deal that could cost the biggest US mobile phone operator as much as $130 billion (98 billion euros).

On Wednesday, the Bloomberg media group reported that Verizon Communications, which is the parent of Verizon Wireless, was working with several banks to finance about $60 billion of the deal.

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If an agreement were to be reached, the deal would be the third-biggest in corporate history. The biggest acquisition ever was a Vodafone takeover of Germany's Mannesmann in 1999 at a cost of $203 billion. The second-largest was AOL's $165 billion acquisition of Time Warner in 2000.

Vodafone is said to benefit from the deal by raising additional funds to finance its expansion Europe. The British mobile phone company is currently changing strategy from a strictly mobile operator to offering combined services such as television and fixed line broadband.

Verizon Communications would regain ownership in one of the most valuable wireless assets in the United States, which, however, has found it increasingly difficult to keep growing in recent years.

A source close to the negotiations, cited by Reuters news agency, said an announcement on the talks would come as soon as September 2.

In June, Vodafone began a takeover bid for Germany's biggest cable operator, Kabel Deutschland, as part of its strategy to dominate media services in Europe.

uhe/ipj (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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