News of Liberty Global’s acquisition of Multimedia Polska was hardly a surprise. Rumours of a possible deal had been circulating in Poland for a number of months and there was indeed a degree of inevitability about it.
Now that it has been confirmed, the question we should all be asking is where do we go to from here? I think the most important thing to bear in mind is that receiving the approval of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) for it to close is unlikely to be a straightforward process. Liberty concedes as much by saying it could take up to a year.
As proof, we should refer back to the last major deal in Poland’s cable industry, when Liberty acquired Aster from Mid Europa Partners in late 2010. The acquisition, worth around $800 million, only went through a year later after the UOKiK had imposed a number of conditions, the most important of which was a requirement for Liberty to sell off some of its new assets to an independent third party. This it eventually did, with the result being the alternative telco Netia entering the cable market.
While there is undoubtedly a need for more consolidation in that market, we are still a long way off Poland becoming a one-operator country. We can also argue that would not necessarily be a good thing.
Vectra, the country’s number two cable operator, is just slightly larger than Multimedia and still going strong. So, too, are the next two largest players, Toya and Inea, based in Lodz and Poznan respectively.
Furthermore, as was recently pointed out to Broadband TV News by Jerzy Straszewski, the president of the Polish Chamber of Electronic Communications (PIKE), several operators are already consolidating to some degree by cooperating on a technical level.
What cannot be denied is that once the acquisition of Multimedia goes through, Liberty will be in a much better position to compete effectively with both Cyfrowy Polsat and the incumbent telco Orange, its two main rivals in Poland’s electronic communications marketplace.