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Malone’s Liberty Global eyes Virgin Media

Tue, 02/05/2013 - 3:02pm
Mike Robuck

John Malone’s Liberty Global is in the process of cooking up a deal to buy Virgin Media.

According to published reports, Virgin Media’s price tag could be in the range of $24 billion, while its market capitalization stands at $10.4 billion. Including debt, its enterprise value is around $19.4 billion, according to data from Thomson Reuters.

Virgin Media is the second-largest pay-TV company in Britain after BSkyB, which is partly owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. Over the past few years, Virgin Media has invested in upgrading its network. Virgin Media’s partnership with TiVo has resonated with more than 1 million of its subscribers, while Liberty Global launched its Horizon service last year in the Netherlands and Switzerland.

Virgin Media acknowledged that it was in discussions with Liberty Global.

“Any such transaction would be subject to regulatory and other conditions,” Virgin Media said.

“While Liberty’s play for Virgin is likely to be driven by its long-term vision for the value a foothold in the United Kingdom 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 and Rupert Murdoch, as they battle for U.K. fixed broadband, fixed voice and pay-TV subscribers,” wrote Adrian Drury, principal analyst at Ovum. “Depending on how Malone might choose to leverage the Virgin Mobile asset, it may also spill over in consumer mobile services.

“Malone will bring the operational smarts from cable operations in 13 markets, multi-territory leverage with the major studios and sports federations, plus its recently launched Horizon next-generation pay-TV and multi-screen platform now rolling out across its European operations. But it will be facing off against a jewel in the Murdoch empire. BSkyB, by any measurement, is one of the best-run pay-TV operations on the planet.”

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