Cable and fixed-line giant Liberty Global sounded out the market regarding a sale of its Swiss and Austrian units, reigniting rumours it is preparing for a big-money merger with Vodafone Group, The Telegraph reported.
Liberty is reportedly looking for potential buyers for cable and fixed units UPC Austria and UPC Switzerland, with mobile operator Salt floated as a potential buyer for at least the Swiss business.
Although talks are said to be at a preliminary stage, they are believed to be part of a wider effort by both Liberty and Vodafone to recalibrate their businesses to ease a merger.
While Vodafone currently does not operate in Austria or Switzerland, it is in the process of rearranging its business units in some regions absent from Liberty’s list of operating markets. During 2017, Vodafone reorganised its assets in Africa and is in the process of attempting to complete a merger in India with Idea Cellular.
Rumours Vodafone and Liberty are preparing a mega-merger have regularly surfaced over the last two-and-a-half years, following the collapse of talks in September 2015 over a possible exchange of assets in Europe. The stumbling block was said to be disagreements on the relative valuations of the businesses.
The companies successfully merged their operations in the Netherlands to form VodafoneZiggo, albeit following a lengthy approvals process.
This was seen by media as a template for a wider European combination between the two, though Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries (pictured) dismissed speculation the two were set for a wider tie-up shortly after VodafoneZiggo commenced operations.
Reports in March claimed talks had reopened on the pair’s business units in the UK after Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said he believed an asset swap between the two would be an “attractive” and “interesting project”.