Two major wireless telephone companies are reported bidding to take control of AT&T Wireless Services, the third largest U.S. mobile phone company.

The firms are U.S.-based Cingular, and British-based Vodafone.

The New York Times says both companies have offered $14 a share, or more than $37 billion for AT&T Wireless, a spinoff from telephone company AT&T.

Two other companies have apparently dropped out of the bidding.

If Cingular wins the bidding, the merged company would become the largest in the $80 billion a year U.S. mobile phone market.

The staffs and territories of Cingular and AT&T Wireless overlap to a large extent, and analysts say the combined company would probably cut many managers and staff currently employed by AT&T. The company has been losing customers and money recently.

The news prompted investors to bid up AT&T's share price, as investors bet that the takeover contest would make the wireless company's shares worth more.