May 24, 2018

Vodafone agrees to buy Liberty Global European assets

11 May 2018, 01:11 | Lionel James

The name Vodafone originated from the words 'voice', 'data' and 'phone'

An Indian man walks past the signboard

Following this deal, Vodafone Group will become the leading next generation network (NGN) infrastructure owner in Europe, with 54 million cable/fibre homes "on-net" and a total NGN reach of 110 million homes and businesses, including wholesale arrangements, the company said.

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao suggested his counterpart's remarks stemmed from concern about increased competition.

But who knows? Liberty Global owns 50pc of a joint venture with Vodafone in the Netherlands called VodafoneZiggo, which has 4m customers, and this is separate from today's (9 May) deal.

The companies both seek to be top carriers in each of the markets where they operate, but Liberty Global had been struggling to find a way to gain clout with mobile services in Germany. However, Vodafone and Liberty Global aim to complete the deal by the middle of 2019.

Vodafone's share price rose by 1% to 209.8p after announcing the long-expected deal with Liberty Global, chaired by U.S. billionaire John Malone, who is also the largest shareholder in the business.

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Deutsche Telekom CEO Tim Hoettges said he will fight against the proposed merger of Unitymedia and Vodafone Germany, calling the deal a mistake and warning it would distort competition, reported German business daily WirtschaftsWoche (WiWo). In each of these markets, the combination of Liberty Global and Vodafone's businesses will transform the competitive landscape and bring a new level of convergence to customers.

Advocates of the deal say, meanwhile, that creating strong market challengers would stiffen competition and stimulate investment as the industry prepares to roll out next-generation 5G services. As a result, innovation and investment lag other countries in Europe, impacting customer service, next-generation product deployment and broadband speeds. "I don't believe that Germany wants to go into a situation like Eastern European markets, where TV markets are dominated by telco players".

Liberty Global has long said it was open to acquiring and selling assets to optimize shareholder value and focus on markets where it has a significant presence and strength. Together, these cable systems reach have 26 million video, broadband and wireline telephone subscribers, as well as 6 million mobile customers.

The major agrement will see Vodafone takeover Liberty Global's Unitymedia cable network in Germany and the fixed line and TV assets it runs under the UPC brand-name in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. Customers (including housing associations) will continue to have a range of alternatives.

A breakup fee of €250 million, payable by Vodafone, has been agreed should the purchase fail.

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