Telefonica denies interest from AT&T: report

Spain’s Telefonica has said it has not received an expression of interest from AT&T after the country’s government was reported to have blocked a substantial bid from the US operator, according to Reuters.

Reports from Spanish newspaper El Mundo had earlier indicated that an AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA) representative had spoken to Spain’s government about making a €70 billion ($93.3 billion) offer for Telefonica (Madrid, Spain), prompting authorities to halt the sale of what they consider a strategically important asset.

However, in a statement sent to Reuters, Telefonica denied having received any kind of approach from AT&T.

Meanwhile, Jose Manuel Soria, Spain’s industry minister, has also denied any knowledge of an approach from AT&T for Telefonica.

According to the Financial Times, Soria met with Randall Stephenson, AT&T’s chairman, at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, when Stephenson is said to have expressed his interest in entering Europe without mentioning Telefonica.

AT&T was first linked with a move into Europe in January, when it was reported to have identified the UK’s EE (Hatfield) and KPN (The Hague) of the Netherlands as potential takeover targets.

In April, the US operator was reported to be considering a joint bid with Verizon for the UK’s Vodafone (Newbury), in what would likely have been the biggest takeover deal in history.

Analysts have questioned why AT&T would want to expose itself to a region mired in economic recession and characterized by intense competition and overzealous regulation.

In January, press reports suggested the operator might be looking for somewhere it can try out new technologies and pricing strategies before these are introduced back home.

Nevertheless, a bid for Telefonica would clearly represent a far more ambitious move.

Besides operating networks across the EU region, Telefonica is one of the main telecoms players in Latin America, where it competes against Carlos Slim’s America Movil (Mexico City, Mexico) for regional dominance.

According to El Mundo, a combined AT&T and Telefonica would have a market capitalization of about €300 billion, making it the biggest telecoms operator in the world on that basis.

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