LONDON (Reuters) - Vodafone <VOD.L>, the world's largest mobile operator by revenue, could receive an annual dividend of $5.5 billion from its stake in Verizon Wireless, its finance officer said.
A spokesman said Andy Halford had told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday that the $5.5 billion figure stemmed from an assumption that Verizon Wireless had an annual free cash flow of $10 billion to $12 billion.
Vodafone owns 45 percent of Verizon Wireless, with Verizon Communications <VZ.N> owning the rest. But it has not received a dividend from the asset since 2005 because partner Verizon has focused instead on paying down debt.
Verizon Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg said at the end of last year that he did not plan to consider a Verizon Wireless dividend until the end of 2011.
Analysts welcomed the comments as the dividend from Verizon Wireless has been long awaited by investors.
However, Liberum analyst Mark James noted a 70 percent payout ratio was typical for telcoms, and that Verizon was unlikely to move to a 100 percent ratio.
(Reporting by Kate Holton)