Vodafone is looking to take control of French mobile phone operator SFR from the country's ailing media giant Vivendi Universal.
Analysts believe that the offer could top £8bn but executives at Vivendi are thought to be keen to hang on to the stake despite the lucrative figures being suggested.
Vodafone has a $10.65bn (£6.7bn) bank facility at its disposal, and could make up any shortfall with further short-term bank borrowing.
A formal offer could be made by the end of the month when 'lock-up' rights in telco Cegetel expire.
Cegetel currently owns 80 per cent of SFR, with Vodafone owning the other 20 per cent. In turn Cegetel is 44 per cent owned by Vivendi, with Vodafone holding 15 per cent of the stock.
Other major shareholders include BT and US comms firm SBC, and the lock-up rights prevent any sale of shares without the agreement of all shareholders.
France is the one big European market where Vodafone does not have a controlling stake in a mobile phone operator.
But the move could face further problems if Vivendi increases its holding in Cegetel, an idea mooted by chief executive Jean-René Fourtou last month, according to the Financial Times.
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