The mother of all M&A rumors: AT&T, Verizon to jointly buy Vodafone

The rumors surrounding everyone’s favorite mismatched telecom partners Verizon(s vz) and Vodafone(s vod) are escalating. No longer is Vodafone considering selling its 45 percent stake in Verizon Wireless to Verizon. No longer is Verizon considering buying Vodafone. Instead, according to The Financial Times’ Alphaville blog, Verizon is teaming up with arch-rival AT&T(s t) for a possible bid on Vodafone.
FT puts the price at U.S. $245 billion, which is larger than the gross national product of all but 39 countries. According to Wireless Intelligence’s most recent global rankings, Verizon Wireless, Vodafone and AT&T are the second, third and fourth largest carriers, in that order, by revenue. In terms of total subscribers, the multinational Vodafone is the world’s second largest carrier, while Verizon and AT&T rank 16th and 18th respectively.
In short this would be one hell of an deal, and by FT reckoning it would be the largest M&A transaction in history. That should be one reason to be skeptical that it’s true. There would be some big regulatory hurdles to such a deal, though they could probably be overcome since AT&T and Verizon wouldn’t themselves be merging. The biggest reason for skepticism, though, is we’ve been hearing talk of Verizon-Vodafone deals practically since the two companies combined their U.S. mobile operations in 2000. So far they’ve all come to naught.