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Cable Technology Feature Article

February 05, 2013

Liberty Global May Be Purchasing Virgin Media

By Rory Lidstone, TMCnet Contributing Writer

Liberty Global, the international cable company owned by John C. Malone, has been in talks to buy Virgin Media (News - Alert), a British cable company. Virgin Media confirmed this today but offered very little detail, only reminding that if the transaction were to happen, it would be subject to standard regulatory conditions.

Liberty Global (News - Alert), meanwhile, declined to comment.

Even if Liberty and Virgin are remaining quiet, this news has set the tech world ablaze, because as Ovum Analyst Adrian Drury pointed out, this could be the biggest shake-up in the U.K. telecommunications and media sector since T-Mobile and Orange (News - Alert) UK merged in 2010.

"While Liberty’s play for Virgin is likely to be driven by its long term vision for the value a foothold in the U.K. will have a pan European triple-play business, and the competitive need to fight News Corp at this scale, in the near term it will make the U.K. the ring for a straight slug fest between two global pay-TV heavyweights – John Malone (News - Alert) and Rupert Murdoch – as they battle for U.K. fixed broadband, fixed voice and pay-TV subscribers," said Drury in a statement. "Depending on how Malone might choose to leverage the Virgin Mobile (News - Alert) asset, it may also spill over in consumer mobile services."

Virgin Media's current market value sits at a little over $10 billion – a figure that rises to $19.4 billion including debt. But to secure a deal, analysts predict that Liberty Global may have to shell out as much as $24 billion – a figure which some speculate may be too high for the international cable company to afford due to its high levels of debt.

As Drury pointed out, if this deal is successful, Malone will be going against, Murdoch's BSkyB, which "by any measurement is one of the best-run pay-TV operations on the planet," according to Drury.

In January, Liberty Global presented at the 2013 Citi Global Internet, Media and Telecommunications Conference. In December, the company announced a new $1.0-billion stock repurchase program.

Edited by Braden Becker

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