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Vodafone wanted to buy Virgin Mobile before float

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Vodafone may - or may not - have tried to buy Virgin Mobile at the beginning of the year. According to The Sunday Telegraph, Vodafone made an indicative bid of around £850m for the mobile business, just months before Richard Branson floated the outfit in July .

An unnamed source quoted by the newspaper said that the acquisition would have increased the number of customers Vodafone has in the UK by around 4m, making it "head and shoulders bigger than the opposition".

However, Reuters is quoting an industry source who claims that this is all a load of tosh and that Vodafone did not make such an approach. It may have discussed the matter, admits the anonymous insider, but nothing more than that. And any suggestion that Vodafone was prepared to shell out £850m was also "greatly inflated", reports Reuters. Virgin Mobile is a virtual mobile network operator which uses T-Mobile's network and is majority-owned by the Virgin Group. It floated in July, valuing the company at around £500m.

Separately, Virgin Mobile today announced plans to open Virgin Mobile Specialist Stores in eight WH Smith outlets to boost its presence in the high street. If the trial proves successful, Virgin could be rolled out into 500 WH Smith shops across the UK.

By mid morning shares in Virgin Mobile were up 8p (4 per cent) at 202p. ®

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