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Liberty Global just struck a big deal to buy Virgin Media, but its CEO suggests the European invasion might be far from over

More M&A for Liberty Global?

Jeff Baumgartner
The Bauminator
Jeff Baumgartner
2/6/2013
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Liberty Global Inc. just bit off on a $23.3 billion deal to acquire the U.K.'s Virgin Media Inc., but its European invasion might be far from over. (See Liberty Makes $23.3B Play for Virgin Media.) "There are still several M&A opportunities to further consolidate in our core markets," Liberty Global President and CEO Mike Fries said on Wednesday's call about the proposed deal. "I think it would be foolish of us not to pursue or at least look at those opportunities, if they present themselves." Those "core markets" are Germany, Belgium, Switzerland, the Netherlands in and, soon, the U.K. Once Virgin Media enters the fold, those countries will represent 80 percent of Liberty Global's revenues. Fries, who happened to turn 50 on Wednesday, emphasized that the Virgin buy will give Liberty Global more scale, but he downplayed comparisons to Comcast Corp., noting that his company refrained from using the words "largest cable operator" in the presentation. "But clearly by this measure, with 25 million customers, we will be slightly bigger than Comcast, and almost twice the size of Time Warner Cable," Fries said. So, okay, he didn't downplay the comparison that much. And as one reader pointed out to me, Liberty Global's sub figures include Telenet of Belgium, which Liberty doesn't own outright yet. Oh, and Comcast will still dwarf Liberty Global from a revenue perspective, even when Virgin Media comes on board. (See Liberty Makes $23.3B Play for Virgin Media.) But Liberty Global has made it clear that it doesn't intend to stop its M&A trend just because it has landed a big one. Since 2005, Liberty Global has closed at least once "sizable acquisition" each year since 2005, representing more than $15 billion in aggregate, Fries pointed out. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable

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Jeff Baumgartner
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Jeff Baumgartner,
User Rank: Light Beer
2/7/2013 | 11:27:31 PM
re: More M&A for Liberty Global?
Well, Malone would certainly know a thing about what it's like to have a big target on his back... TCI carried that stigma for many years. But, you're right, Comcast and Liberty Global are not exactly an apples-to-apples comparison; video subs is just one of many measurements here.- JB
craigleddy
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craigleddy,
User Rank: Blogger
2/7/2013 | 2:12:13 PM
re: More M&A for Liberty Global?
I wonder if Liberty is downplaying the World's Largest Cable Company angle because in some regulatory circles being big is not a good thing. The comparison to Comcast isn't that straightforward since Liberty's holdings operate in different countries with different programming and regulatory requirements. Comcast is more homogenous (although just how homogenous has been an arguable point).
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