Liberty Global is exploring the sale of its cable subsidiaries in Switzerland and Austria.
The discussions are understood to be at an early stage and may not lead to a transaction, reports The Telegraph with reference to sources familiar with the plans.
Liberty’s local UPC businesses in Switzerland and Austria, both market leaders in their respective countries, have recently reported growing subscriber numbers, driven in Switzerland by UPC’s new sports channel MySports, available exclusively on cable.
UPC invested heavily into MySports and domestic sports rights, created to affront Swisscom TV, the IPTV platform operated by competitor Swisscom which has seen growing TV subscriber numbers while cable continued to lose TV customers despite growing internet and telephony subscription figures. The MySports strategy has paid off, as the Q3 2017 figures show.
Swiss mobile operators Sunrise and Salt could be interested in acquiring UPC Switzerland to boost their market shares and accelerate mobile and fixed line convergence, according to industry insiders. It is, however, unclear whether Liberty Global plans to sell the companies separately of as a package.
Liberty Global’s exit from Switzerland and Austria could help pave the way for a large-scale $175 billion merger with Vodafone, according to The Telegraph. Both companies have recently combined their cable assets by forming a joint venture in the Netherlands. There has been speculation regarding a possible deal in Germany for years.
In September 2014, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao said that Liberty Global could be a good fit for the mobile network operator “for the right price”.
However, joint venture deals along the lines of the agreement in the Netherlands seem to be unlikely following comments made by Liberty Global’s CEO Mike Fries. The Dutch arrangement was a “unique situation” and the two companies aren’t currently talking about more, he said.