"Vodafone's got deep pockets if it chooses to invest [more money in VHA], but what's maybe needed is more than straight dollars," Johnson said. Another company could bring "extra synergy or something else to revitalise that business," he said.
Australian regulators are more likely to favour a foreign acquisition than more national consolidation in the mobile market, said Telsyte analyst Chris Coughlan. The Australian Competitions and Consumer Commission (ACCC) "is unlikely to allow any consolidation in the mobile network market, as a reduction to two networks would likely create a cosy duopoly and therefore not be in the interests of end consumers."
"Should the owners of one of these mobile networks think of exiting, then they will most probably look to an off-shore entity as a possible buyer," he said.
Johnson said that "whatever happens, it needs to occur promptly before the 2013 spectrum auction where Voda looks like a no-bid." The Australian government is selling 700MHz spectrum that's ideal for 4G LTE in next April's Digital Dividend auction, but Vodafone has hinted that it may sit out.
Vodafone declined to comment for this story. SoftBank was approached for comment but hadn't replied by time of publication.
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