Liberty Global is gradually winding down its involvement in Central and Eastern Europe and in a few months time may only have a presence in Poland and Slovakia.
Given its overall strategy and the fact that it has just agreed to sell UPC Switzerland to the telco Sunrise, an eventual withdrawal from the last two CEE markets cannot be ruled out.
In its latest set of results, the company says that the sale of its assets in Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania to Vodafone “remains on track for mid-2019 completion”. However, it does not mention the UPC DTH/M7 Group transaction, which is also awaiting regulatory approval and when announced last December was also expected to close in the first half of this year.
Closer examination of the results shows that Liberty’s continuing CEE operations (essentially the cable assets in Poland and Slovakia) had revenues of €119.1 million in Q4, or 5% less than in the same quarter in 2017. At the same time, the combined revenues of all its discontinued CEE assets fell by 0.6% year-on-year to €191 million.
Meanwhile, UPC had a strong last quarter in Poland in 2018, gaining 42,000 RGUs, of which around half (21,700) were for its internet services. In Slovakia, the cable business saw its RGU total increase by 4,500 in the same period.
It also looked positive, at least in subscriber numbers, for UPC DTH, with the company gaining 6,600 additional customers in the last quarter.
Digging deeper, releases from UPC in Poland and the Czech Republic highlight their many successes of 2018. In the former’s case, they include the take-up of Horizon growing by 33% to reach 643,000, or 62% of the digital TV base. In the latter’s, one of several milestones was reaching 500,000 internet subscribers.
Liberty’s CEE assets are clearly still performing well. Most will nevertheless soon find themselves under new ownership, bringing with it far-reaching changes.