Qwest Communications has made a "best and final" attempt to prise US long distance phone carrier MCI from the takeover clutches of telecoms giant Verizon.

Qwest has offered a cash and stock deal worth $9.74 billion (€7.43bn, £5.09bn), equal to $30 a share. MCI, aka Worldcom before it was felled by a fraud scandal last year, had until Saturday (April 23) to say yea or nay.

Verizon's $7.5bn 'final' bid was accepted by MCI's board two weeks ago. It believes the nation's largest local-telephone company, valued around $100bn, promises better long-term financial stability.

Qwest, valued at just $6.8bn and saddled with a $17bn debt, has consistently come up with higher offers than Verizon during the two month bidding war, but all have been knocked back.

However, the latest move will put pressure on the MCI board to seek more from Verizon. The latter has already started the process of an MCI shareholder vote on its accepted deal, filing documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

A statement from Verizon says: "As we move through the proxy process, we will continue to assess the situation and intend to take the necessary steps at the appropriate time to secure shareholder approval and complete our pending transaction."

One possible strategy would be to increase its bid in the final weeks before the shareholder vote in order to hit Qwest with a final knockout punch.

But Verizon has delivered several would-be knockout blows during this bout and its opponent keeps coming back for more...

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff