Vodafone and US cable giant Liberty Global are both looking to increase their cable assets in Europe, leading to more media speculation that instead of competing with one another they might be better off cooperating.
According to a Financial Times (FT) report, European cable assets are likely to become more expensive following the successful IPO of Numericable – France’s largest cable operator – which raised more than €650 million.
This will adversely affect Vodafone, which is reportedly linked with Italy’s Fastweb and Spain’s Ono.
Following on from its purchase of Kabel Deutschland in Germany, and with more cash at its disposal following the sale of its Verizon Wireless stake, Vodafone looks keen to bolster its quad-play capabilities in other markets.
Liberty, on the other hand, controlled by billionaire John Malone, is financially stretched. Liberty Global’s net debt, reports FT, nearly doubled from $23.1 billion in the third quarter of 2012 to $41.8 billion in the third quarter of 2013.
(Liberty is currently in takeover talks with Dutch broadband provider Ziggo, which analysts say could cost the cable giant around €5 billion.)
Speculation that Vodafone might make a bid for Liberty is hardly new. When Liberty sold the majority of its London-based Chellomedia content business to AMC Networks in a $1 billion deal in October, it was widely seen as a move that would make Malone’s company more attractive to Vodafone.
A Vodafone and Liberty tie-up, if given regulatory approval, would mean a big shake up in the UK market. The US cable giant owns Virgin Media, the UK’s biggest cable operator.