Following a report by The Irish Independent this week which said that 3 Ireland was interested in making a bid for apparently up-for-sale rival O2, Spanish paper Cinco Dias says cable firm Liberty Global and incumbent Eircom have also expressed an interest in Telefonica’s mobile operation in Ireland.
UPC Ireland, owned by Liberty Global, is the largest cable television operator in the country, and had 540,000 customers as of 31 March 2013.
Unlike Hutchison Whampoa’s 3 Ireland and Eircom, Ireland’s former monopoly operator, Liberty Global has no mobile operation in Ireland. Its takeover intentions towards O2 may well then be viewed more favourably from a regulatory point of view.
According to Wireless Intelligence data, O2 Ireland was the second biggest operator in the country at the end of March with 1.53 million subscribers. Vodafone Ireland, the market leader, had 2.16 million subscribers. Eircom’s Meteor had 1.12 million and 3 Ireland, the country’s smallest network operator, had 0.5 million customers.
Selling off its Irish business would be another step in the debt reduction efforts of the Spanish giant.
According to Cinco Dias, Telefonica hopes to raise between €700 million and €800 million from the sale of its struggling Irish subsidiary. In Q1 2013, O2 Ireland’s revenue fell by 12.2 per cent to €136 million compared with the previous three months.
According to various reports, the O2 Ireland sale, which Bank of America Merrill Lynch has been appointed to advise on, could be wrapped up by the beginning of July.