Poland’s cable industry could be about to witness a seismic shift.
The news that the second largest operator Vectra has informed the competition authority (UOKiK) of its intention to buy the third largest Multimedia Polska has not exactly made front page headlines, even in the local media. It should.
Maybe it’s a case of “we’ve been here before”. Cast our minds back two years, when UPC Polska, the market leader, signalled its intention to buy Multimedia in a deal worth around $760 million. It was closely analysed by UOKiK and most expected it to be given the green light, with huge strings attached, as had UPC’s acquisition of Aster a few years ago.
But, to almost everyone’s surprise, UPC decided to withdraw its offer this February after concluding it couldn’t assuage UOKiK’s competition concerns. Three months later, we learned that Liberty Global had agreed to sell three of its operations in CEE to Vodafone, leaving only those in Poland and Slovakia in its regional portfolio.
Liberty maintains it is committed to Poland but now faces the prospect of slipping to second place behind what would be a combined Vectra/Multimedia operation.
Like many cable markets in CEE, Poland’s is in need of consolidation in order to remain competitive. With Cyfrowy Polsat going from strength to strength and Discovery now the owner of TVN, it makes sense to have only one or two large cable companies operating in its media industry.
Vectra and Multimedia have surprisingly similar histories, with both starting off as regional companies in the Baltic coastal region in the 1990s and then expanding nationally.
There has been talk of a possible merger for a number of years, though until now it appeared to lack substance.
Should UOKiK approve Vectra’s acquisition of Multimedia, questions will almost inevitably be asked about the futures of UPC, Inea and Toya. More consolidation may follow.