Sky News has learnt that Vodafone has been weighing whether to make a potential offer for TalkTalk in recent weeks.
Sky, the Comcast-owned immediate parent of Sky News, is also said to have been examining whether to make an offer for part of the Salford-headquartered group.
Telecoms industry sources said on Friday that Sir Charles Dunstone, TalkTalk’s founder and chairman, and Toscafund, which helped take the company private in late 2020, believed the company was now worth at least £3bn.
Lazard, the investment bank which has advised TalkTalk for a number of years, is understood to have been fielding approaches from prospective buyers and investment banks.
The firm advised TalkTalk on its recent acquisition of Virtual1, a smaller network provider in the UK.
One insider cautioned that TalkTalk had yet to receive any formal offers and added that there was no certainty that any would be forthcoming.
Acquiring TalkTalk, whose website says it has 4.2m customers in total and 2.4m fibre connections across the UK, would provide Vodafone with substantially enhanced scale in the British broadband market.
Any such deal would also represent the latest consolidation move in a market where industry executives have consistently referred to the need to find savings to invest in upgrading Britain’s digital infrastructure.
Openreach, the infrastructure arm of BT Group, and CityFibre Holdings have both accelerated plans to roll out full-fibre connections across Britain, with a multitude of smaller players also emerging in recent years in an attempt to capture a slice of the market.
TalkTalk also provides a pay-TV service which includes content from Sky- and BT Sport-branded channels.
Founded by Sir Charles in 2004 when it was part of The Carphone Warehouse – from which it was subsequently demerged – TalkTalk delisted from the stock market just over a year ago.
The deal to take it private valued it at about £1.8bn including debt.