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UPDATE3 Liberty Global Preps Bid for UK Cable Operator Virgin Media

Tuesday, Feb 5th, 2013 (9:28 am) - Score 887

Virgin Media, which delivers fixed line phone, broadband and TV services to roughly half of the United Kingdom (mostly urban areas), could be sold to international cable provider Liberty Global after reports of a bid worth up to £12.7 billion began to circle the internet (enterprise value of $20bn).

According to the Financial Times, Liberty Global is owned by Denver-based USA billionaire John Malone whom has made bids for NTL before (i.e. prior to when NTL and Telewest merged to become Virgin Media). At present the details are paper thin and neither side has opted to comment.

Virgin Media is currently said to have a market capitalization of around £6.6 billion ($10.4bn) and the report indicates that a deal could be announced in the coming days. It is of course quite normal for big firms to bid on big operators but in this case the approach appears to be a lot more specific and serious than past offers.

UPDATE 9:37am

Virgin Media has now confirmed the talks.

VirginMedia Statement

Virgin Media confirms that it is in discussions with Liberty Global, Inc., a leading international cable company, concerning a possible transaction. Any such transaction would be subject to regulatory and other conditions.”

We note that VM’s financial results are also out tomorrow.

UPDATE 1:45pm

According to Ovum, this move could be the largest shake-up in the UK telecoms and media sector since the merger of the T-Mobile and Orange UK mobile network operators in 2010.

Adrian Drury, Ovum’s Principal Analyst, told ISPreview.co.uk:

“While Liberty’s play for Virgin is likely to be driven by its long term vision for the value a foothold in the UK will have a pan European triple-play business, and the competitive need to fight News Corp at this scale, in the near term it will make the UK the ring for a straight slug fest between two global pay-TV heavyweights, John Malone and Rupert Murdoch, as they battle for UK fixed broadband, fixed voice and pay-TV subscribers. Depending on how Malone might chose to leverage the Virgin Mobile asset, it may also spill over in consumer mobile services.

Malone will bring the operational smarts from cable operations in 13 markets, multi-territory leverage with the major studios and sports federations, plus its recently launched Horizon next generation pay-TV and multi-screen platform, now rolling out across its European operations. But it will be facing off against a jewel in the Murdoch empire.

BSkyB, by any measurement is one of the best-run pay-TV operations on the planet, with a strong technology platform strategy, some powerful content rights, including exclusive rights to the entire HBO catalogue, control of the Premiership coverage wholesale market, and exclusivity on the output of all of the majors in the First Subscription Pay-TV Window.

Plus also note that the UK is a must win market for two major disruptive SVOD players, Amazon’s Lovefilm and Netflix. If Malone closes the deal, this will be a very interesting competition to watch and real test for the Liberty vision of the future of cable TV and internet services. Also expect that there would be some collateral damage, potentially other UK telcos trying to solve their triple play pay-TV challenge, such as TalkTalk and BT.”

UPDATE 6th Feb 2013

A deal has now been detailed and confirmed (here).

By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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