Mobile phone giant Vodafone was today mulling a takeover bid worth around £900 million for ailing telecoms group Cable & Wireless Worldwide.
Newbury-based Vodafone has until Monday lunchtime to bid or walk away after rival Tata Communications of India withdrew its interest in Cable last week.
Sources have told the Sunday Times that it was a "fifty-fifty call" whether Vodafone will table a formal bid but that if it did the price would be between 30p and 35p a share - £810 million and £950 million.
Tata is rumoured to have offered less than 25p a share, valuing the company at less than £675 million.
A successful move by Vodafone is expected to result in it hiving off Cable's 260,000 miles of undersea cables, with potential buyers including American groups AT&T and Verison.
This has the potential to fetch about £500 million, while according to analysts Vodafone could also use some of Cable's big historic losses to offset about £1 billion on future tax bills.
Cable provides high-speed telecoms services to the police and companies including Tesco and would be attractive to Vodafone as the mobile phone firm looks to grow its corporate arm at a time of slow consumer growth.
The company has been impacted by the squeeze on Government spending and the weak economy, leading it to report heavy losses for the six months to September 30 and warn of no dividend payments in order to bolster its balance sheet.
Analysts have warned that the Cable share price could plunge to about 20p from the current 32p were Vodafone to withdraw.