Liberty Global is poised to make a bid to pre-empt a possible flotation of Ziggo, the largest Dutch cable operator, the chief strategy officer of the acquisitive US-based cable company said on Friday, reports the Financial Times.
On Friday Reuters reported Ziggo owners, private equity firms Cinven and Warburg Pincus, had hired STJ Advisors to prepare for a floatation of Ziggo, that could value the biggest Dutch cable operator at around €7 billion.
Shane O’Neill, chief strategy officer of Liberty Global, told the FT: “We have a track record of not being put off by the prospects of an IPO. It never bothers us. These guys are motivated by money and if you show up with a more attractive bid, they will go for you.”
At the moment, Liberty Global is on a buying spree in Europe. The company acquired German’s Unitymedia and more recently Kabel BW. For some time, Liberty has also set its sights on Holland’s Ziggo, but it remains doubtful if regulators will okay the purchase. Liberty Global already owns UPC Nederland, the country’s second largest operator.
However, O’Neill believes that Dutch regulators would not obstruct the formation of a monopoly if his company decided to bid. “It is the situation that exists in the UK, in France and in Spain,” he said to the FT.
Only last month O’Neill told the Cable Congress in Lucerne that Ziggo would be “great synergistic fit” for Liberty Global, before emphasising there were no talks in progress.
It is our take that the situation in The Netherlands can not be compared to that in the three countries mentioned by O’Neill, as cable is still the main means of distribution for TV channels with around 70% of all homes subscribing to cable. In the UK, in France and in Spain this percentage is significantly lower with satellite, IPTV and DTT also taking large shares of the market.
Should the Dutch regulators okay the acquisition of Ziggo by Liberty Global, they will very likely attach a number of conditions to such a purchase, which could include third-party access to the cable networks. However, earlier attempts to “open up” the cable networks in the country have failed. Dutch telecoms regulator OPTA is now in the process of producing a new TV market analysis.