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Verizon denies intention to merge with or buy Vodafone

(Reuters) - Verizon Communications Inc said it does not "currently have any intention" to merge with or buy its partner Vodafone Group Plc , either alone or in conjunction with others, in response to press reports.

However, the telephone company said on Tuesday that it would still be a willing buyer of Vodafone's 45 percent share of their Verizon Wireless U.S. venture, in line with public statements Verizon has made many times over the years.

Verizon's statement contradicts a report from the Financial Times Alphaville blog on Tuesday that cited unnamed sources saying Verizon and its biggest U.S. rival, AT&T Inc , had been working together on a bid for Vodafone in which Verizon would take Vodafone's U.S. assets and AT&T would take the rest.

Bernstein analyst Robin Bienenstock said in a research note that any deal "other than a merger is unwelcome by Vodafone's management" as management believes that the U.S. market is more attractive than Europe for wireless.

While analysts said they saw benefits from a Verizon purchase of the rest of its wireless venture, they were much more skeptical of the idea that AT&T would want Vodafone's overseas assets in a deal they perceived as highly risky.

Verizon has said for many years that it would like to buy the rest of Verizon Wireless, the biggest U.S. mobile service, but the companies have never been able to reach an agreement.

Speculation about a potential deal between Verizon and Vodafone has ramped up since January as Vodafone explored what to do with its U.S. asset, which makes up about 75 percent of its value.

Speculation about a potential deal between Verizon and Vodafone has ramped up since January as Vodafone explored what to do with the U.S. business, considered by many investors its most valuable asset.

The speculation has stemmed partly from a valuation gap between Verizon and Vodafone, seen by some analysts as making a deal this year more likely.

Verizon's unwillingness to go ahead with a merger may scupper its chances of buying out Vodafone's Verizon Wireless stake, at least for now, according to some analysts.

Verizon shares closed 0.6 percent higher at $49.50 on Tuesday, while Vodafone shares closed up 2.9 percent at 192 pence in London.

(Reporting by Sinead Carew in New York; editing by Matthew Lewis)

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