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Will Malone Take a Bigger Run at Ziggo?

No one can say John Malone and his crew are just sitting idle these days. In fact, they might be running a bit low on the midnight oil at the moment. Soon after Liberty Global Inc. (LGI) struck a US$23.3 billion deal for Virgin Media Inc. and Liberty Media Corp. splashed out $2.6 billion for a 27 percent stake in Charter Communications Inc., LGI followed Thursday by putting up €632.5 million ($809.4 million) for a 12.65 percent stake in Dutch MSO Ziggo B.V. (See Liberty Makes $23.3B Play for Virgin Media and Liberty Puts Up $26B for 27% Stake in Charter.) Liberty already has a fix on the Dutch cable market via its UPC Netherlands subsidiary. So, will Liberty Global go after all of Ziggo and expand its cable dominance in Europe? One day, probably, says one analyst. "We view this as a smart, strategic move that would make other entities potentially interested in Ziggo," wrote ISI Group Inc. analyst Vijay Jayant in a note issued today, adding that the investment could help to fend off other potential suitors, such as Vodafone Group plc, which has reportedly shown interest in German MSO Kabel Deutschland GmbH. "We do not, however, think a deal for full control of Ziggo is likely in the next 18 months or so," Jayant wrote. Still, he views Liberty Global "as the logical, ultimate acquirer of Ziggo, but at the right price." For those keeping score, Liberty's offer of €25.00 per share was just a tick above the €24.30 at which Ziggo closed yesterday -- a "modest premium" for a strategic block of shares purchased from Barclays Capital, notes Jayant. — Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable



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