Telefonica denies AT&T interest in buying up O2
Spanish news reports of €70bn bid rubbished by owners
O2-owner Telefonica denied yesterday that it received any indication of interest from AT&T, following a Spanish newspaper report that the government had halted a €70bn offer from the US company.
An AT&T representative told the government about the company's plans to buy Telefonica and take on its €52bn of debt, leading the state to stop the sale, 'El Mundo' said yesterday, citing sources with knowledge of the deal.
"Telefonica has not received any approach or spoken or written indication of interest," a spokesman for Telefonica said.
The government has mechanisms to block the sale of any company deemed strategic to the national economy, 'El Mundo' cited sources as saying.
According to the paper, the matter was debated in the economy and industry ministries, as well as in prime minister Mariano Rajoy's office.
Telefonica is currently trying to sell O2 Ireland and may reach a deal with an operator by next month.
AT&T has been looking this year at ways it can grow outside the United States, including via acquisitions and expanding its business serving enterprise customers.
A takeover of Telefonica would make it the biggest telecoms company in the world, with a market capitalisation of almost e300bn, according to 'El Mundo'.
Debt-laden Telefonica's revenues have been hit by the economic downturn in Europe, especially in Spain, where 27 percent of the workforce is unemployed. Latin America now counts for over half the company's revenues. (Reuters)