SHARES in Vodafone suffered their biggest drop this morning in five years as US mobile operator AT&T ruled out buying the firm for the next six months.
Ireland’s 400,000 investors were hit as stocks in the phone company plummeted as much as 6pc this morning, giving it a market valuation of £107bn (€130bn). The shares jumped more than 50pc last year.
AT&T had sparked speculation that it could be interested in a deal with Vodafone after its chief executive Randall Stephenson said there was a "huge opportunity" to invest in mobile broadband in Europe.
However in a statement to the London Stock Exchange today, the second-largest mobile service provider in the US denied that it was planning a bid after an enquiry by Britain's takeover panel.
"AT&T notes the recent speculation regarding a potential transaction involving Vodafone," it said in a short statement.
"At the request of the UK Takeover Panel, AT&T confirms that it does not intend to make an offer for Vodafone."
Vodafone is the world's second-largest mobile operator, with assets in Europe, India and Africa, while AT&T is the second-largest operator in the US after Verizon Wireless.
AT&T cannot offer to buy Vodafone or a stake of 30pc or more in the company for the next six months, according to UK takeover rules.