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Liberty Global Gets Go-Ahead for Virgin Takeover

Not ten weeks after Liberty Global Inc. announced its intention to acquire Virgin Media Inc., the European Commission has blessed the US$23.3 billion deal and given Chairman of the Board John C. Malone control of the world's largest cable entity. In a statement today, the Commission said, "the transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because the parties operate cable networks in different Member States and because of the merged entity's limited market position in the wholesale of TV channels in the U.K. and Ireland." With the Virgin acquisition, Liberty Global can claim 25 million customers, boosting it above Comcast Corp. and its 22 million subscribers. The merger also sets Liberty squarely up against Rupert Murdoch and BSkyB Ltd. in Europe. Liberty Global says it will create a new holding company with the Virgin transaction based in the U.K. and listed on Nasdaq. John Malone isn't content with a Virgin takeover, either. Liberty Global also put out €632.5 million ($809.4 million) for a 12.65 percent stake in Dutch MSO Ziggo B.V. last month. In the U.S., Malone's Liberty Media Corp. is spending $2.6 billion for a 27 percent stake in Charter Communications Inc.. (See Will Malone Take a Bigger Run at Ziggo?, and Liberty Puts Up $2.6B for 27% Stake in Charter.) — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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