Airtouch, the US cellular operator at the centre of a bidding war, so far between Vodafone and Bell Atlantic, yesterday made an acquisition of its own.
The US company, with more customers than any other operator, has bought a further stake in Italian mobile operator Omnitel Pronto Italia. Three year old Omnitel Pronto Italia has six million customers, representing 10 per cent of the Italian population.
The unspecified deal raises Airtouch's stake in the Italian operator from 15.5 per cent to 17.8 per cent. Airtouch also has the option to increase its stake to 21.7 per cent, something it must decide on by the third quarter of 1999.
Airtouch has stakes in mobile and paging operators across the world, including the US, Belgium, Germany, Japan, Spain, and Sweden, as well as in Italy and in the Globalstar satellite communications system.
Vodafone is believed to have discussed a cash and stock bid of around $55 billion for Airtouch last week, while Bell Atlantic made an earlier stock bid estimated at around $45 billion.
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