Vodafone has confirmed that it is in discussions to acquire certain Liberty Global European assets but that a "combination of both companies" in a mega-merger is not being considered.
Following renewed speculation of a potential deal, Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) announced the following on late Friday afternoon UK time:
Vodafone confirms that it is in early stage discussions with Liberty Global regarding the potential acquisition of certain overlapping continental European assets owned by Liberty Global.
There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor as to the terms, timing or form of any transaction.
Vodafone is not in discussion with Liberty Global regarding a combination of both companies.
Rumors of potential M&A deals between the two companies have been rumbling for years -- they held talks about assets swaps in 2015 but they fizzled out -- and have been sparked again recently the Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY)'s decision to offload its Austrian operation to Deutsche Telekom. (See Eurobites: DT to Buy Liberty Global's Austrian Unit in €1.9B Deal, Eurobites: Liberty Global Considers Sale of Swiss, Austrian Units and Vodafone, Liberty Call Off Asset-Swap Talks.)
Vodafone, having realized some years ago that having a mobile networks and services empire without fixed access broadband and data transport network assets would leave it exposed in a 5G world, has been acquiring cable broadband operators to combine with its mobile operations and has already struck a deal with Liberty to form a joint venture operation in the Netherlands (VodafoneZiggo). (See Eurobites: Liberty-Vodafone Dutch Merger Set for EU Approval – Report, Euronews: Vodafone Strikes €7.7B Kabel Deal and Vodafone to Buy ONO for €7.2B.)
Now it seems it might get its hands on some of John Malone's European operations.
With deals already done to offload its assets in Austria, Liberty Global still has operations in Belgium, the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Switzerland and the UK that could be up for grabs. Of those, Vodafone has operations in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Romania and the UK.
Vodafone's share price spiked by 5.1% in late afternoon trading in London to 219.5 pence. Liberty Global's share price is up 3.55% to $38.51.
— Ray Le Maistre, Editor-in-Chief, Light Reading