BUSINESS

MALONE'S MEDIA FIRM BIDS FOR REST OF DUTCH CABLE OPERATOR

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

c.2013 New York Times News Service

LONDON — Liberty Global, the media company controlled by John C. Malone, is in talks to buy the Dutch cable operator Ziggo, the European company said in a brief statement Thursday.

The announcement comes after Ziggo, the largest provider of cable television services in the Netherlands, rejected a previous approach in October from Liberty Global, which has operations across Europe.

The Dutch company had said the initial offer had been “inadequate” but did not disclose the financial terms.

“Further announcements will be made if and when relevant,” Ziggo said in a short statement Thursday. “There is no certainty that any agreement can be reached or that any offer will ultimately be made.”

Any potential deal for Ziggo, which could be worth more than 5 billion euros ($6.9 billion) would be the latest in a string of acquisitions in the European telecommunications and cable industry.

Liberty Global, which owns one of the largest cable operators in Germany and has an almost 29 percent stake in Ziggo, bought the British cable operator Virgin Media for $16 billion this year.

The British cellphone company Vodafone also acquired the German cable firm Kabel Deutschland for around $10 billion, while the Spanish telecommunications giant Telefónica has agreed to buy its smaller German rival E-Plus for $11.5 billion.

The acquisitions are part of a growing trend for telecom operators and cable firms to provide combined cellphone, fixed-line, broadband and pay-television services to attract new customers and retain others, who increasingly access content across multiple devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops.

A survey published Thursday by Office of Communications of Britain, the country’s telecommunications regulator, found that almost two-thirds of consumers in Western Europe now use these bundled offerings, compared with around 50 percent of their counterparts in the United States.

The disclosure that Ziggo is in discussions with Liberty Global over a potential deal led the company’s share price to rise 5.35 percent, to 32.50 euros in trading in Amsterdam on Thursday.

Ziggo currently has a market value of $9 billion, but analysts say Liberty Global may have to pay as much as 37 euros a share to buy the remaining stake in the Dutch cable operator that it does not own.

Liberty Global owns UPC Netherlands, the country’s second-largest operator, and the company may face regulatory issues if it acquires Ziggo and its more than 2 million domestic customers.

The cable giant already has faced antitrust problems from German authorities after Liberty Global acquired local cable operator Kabel Baden-Wuerttemberg for around $4.2 billion in 2011.

Ziggo was previously owned by a consortium of private equity firms, including Warburg Pincus and Cinven, and became a public company last year through an initial public offering that raised almost $1 billion.

Representatives for Liberty Global and Ziggo declined to comment Thursday.