Vodafone must decide whether to bid for Britain's Cable & Wireless Worldwide by 29 March after regulator the Takeover Panel extended the deadline on Friday to the same date set for potential rival bidder Tata Communications.
The takeover panel had set a "put up or shut up" deadline for March 12 after Vodafone (London) said in February it was in the early stage of considering whether to make a cash bid for Cable & Wireless Worldwide (C&WW).
It granted the extension on Friday at the request of C&WW (Bracknell, UK), the corporate telecoms services group said.
Vodafone's declared interest in C&WW, which has issued a string of profit warnings since it split from Cable & Wireless Communications two years ago, prompted Tata Communications  (Mumbai, India) to say on March 1 that it too was looking at making a bid.
Analyst Nick Brown at Espirito Santo Investment Bank said the extension meant Vodafone was working quite seriously on whether to make a formal bid or not.
"Their intentions of having a look at the business were made public perhaps before they would have liked, so it makes sense they might want a bit more time because it's not just the Cable & Wireless shareholders they have to convince; they've got to present a robust case to Vodafone shareholders as well," he said.
"There's been a fair degree of skepticism about the deal; as we've got closer to the deadline it became more apparent that Vodafone was serious about potentially making a bid. Now they are requesting more time it is probably more likely than not they are going to come out with something formal."
Standard Chartered is the financial adviser to Tata Communications , the company said in the filing, with Rothschild and Barclays Capital advising C&W Worldwide.