Are we about to see Liberty Global make two important acquisitions in Europe, strengthening its already dominant position in one market and re-entering another?
Agency and local reports say that the company is set to make an offer for Multimedia Polska, Poland’s second largest cable operator, within a matter of days. It could also make a bid for Norway’s Get, which it sold seven years ago and which has just been put up for sale by its current owners Quadrangle and Goldman Sachs Capital Partners.
Certainly in the case of Multimedia Polska, any move by Liberty should come as no surprise. The former, though still growing – most recently through the acquisition of Stream Communications – has effectively been on the market since the beginning of this year.
However, it will be no easy task for Liberty to complete a deal, given the problems it had in acquiring Aster, at one time Poland’s fourth largest cable operator, only last year. In that instance, the competition authority UOKiK drove a hard bargain, granting approval only after Liberty had agreed to a number of concessions, including selling on some of Aster’s assets to third, unrelated parties.
Should Liberty eventually acquire Multimedia Polska, it would see its share of the Polish cable market rise from the current 30% to almost half, making Vector, Inea, Toya and indeed the hundreds of other much smaller operators little more than bit-part players.
While Permira, EQT and Aster’s former owner Mid Europa Partners (MEP) have all been mentioned as other possible bidders for Multimedia Polska, Vectra cannot be ruled out. It came close to acquiring Aster before eventually losing out Liberty and a tie-up with Multimedia Polska, which has in fact been mooted on and off for a number of years, would effectively create a company the same size as UPC Polska.
Although Liberty’s focus is currently on the Horizon project and markets such as Germany, it is also likely to have further acquisitions high on the agenda.