Liberty Global Group, the European cable giant, is already approaching five million mobile subscribers, with an appetite to attract more across its footprint.
The company had 4.7 million mobile subscribers, led by Virgin Mobile in the UK with about two thirds of the total, according to the company’s end-December 2015 results.
And that figure for the group was before the announcement of a fixed-mobile alliance with Vodafone in the Netherlands this week, which will offer incumbent KPN a run for its money.
The joint venture will create “a new national champion” according to CEO Mike Fries, with five million mobile subscribers alongside Liberty’s cable customers.
The Dutch deal follows the $1.33 billion acquisition of Belgian mobile operator Base, augmenting its existing cable and MVNO business in the country, Telenet.
Base’s subscriber numbers are not included in Liberty’s Q4 2015 results.
Fries made clear that mobile is considered a key revenue generator for Liberty over the next three years.
Of course, Liberty was in negotiations with Vodafone over a wide-ranging alliance that did not reach fruition, but it might have other opportunities on a country-by-country basis to add a mobile operator.
For instance, its Polish operation currently has only 7,200 mobile subscribers (end-December 2015) on top of its cable operation. However, an opportunity to grow much faster might be available since Polish operator Play has been up for sale.
In Switzerland, Liberty has a chance to build on its fledgling mobile business where it has 33,000 subscribers. It has been linked as a potential suitor to Sunrise, the private equity-owned mobile operator. Again, an acquisition would accelerate its growth strategy for mobile.
Other countries might prove harder for Liberty to take a shortcut to mobile growth. In Germany, it has 355,000 mobile subscribers but M&A, at least among mobile operators, might prove tricky to find.
T-Mobile, Vodafone and Telefonica all look committed to Germany, although the market does have several MVNOs.