NEW YORK (Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc’s (VZ.N) top executive dismissed speculation his company would merge with wireless venture partner Vodafone Group Plc (VOD.L), saying such a deal would offer little benefit.
Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg also said on Tuesday that Verizon Wireless would be open to carrying iPhone but the timing would be Apple Inc’s (AAPL.O) decision.
Seidenberg was asked about recent speculation that it could merge with Vodafone at a Council on Foreign Relations event.
“Absent new information, a merger doesn’t seem to have a lot of appeal,” Seidenberg told reporters.
Verizon owns 55 percent of Verizon Wireless and Vodafone owns the remaining 45 percent.
Analysts have long speculated that Verizon could be pressured to pay Vodafone a dividend for its stake in Verizon Wireless as the venture has not paid a dividend since 2005. Once that issue is resolved, some analysts have speculated that the pair could then merge.
But Seidenberg said it would be hard to make the case for such a deal. He that Verizon and Vodafone talk all the time but would not elaborate on specific talks.
He told the audience at the event that “this notion of a global wireless only carrier is no longer the preferred model” because of difficulties reaching economies of scale. Vodafone is a wireless-only operator while Verizon has both wired and wireless networks.
Seidenberg also said Verizon would be open to carrying Apple’s iPhone on its network. In particular the executive said he would hope to be able to sell an iPhone that supports a Long Term Evolution (LTE) high-speed fourth generation (4G) network the company is building.
“It’s their call,” he said. “Eventually it’s our view we’ll get to carrying Apple.”
The comment follows a recent Wall Street Journal story that said Apple would start making phones compatible with Verizon’s current CDMA network later this year.
Verizon expects to offer 4G services later this year and that the first phones supporting those services would show up around the middle of 2010.
Vodafone shares were down 1.38 percent at 149.6 pence in afternoon trade on the London Stock Exchange on Tuesday while Verizon shares were off 0.83 percent at $31.20 on New York Stock Exchange.
Reporting by Sinead Carew and Franklin Paul; Editing by Derek Caney