Two major developments in the space of a few days have put a question mark over Liberty Global’s future involvement in Poland’s electronic communications marketplace.
The first saw the cable operator Vectra take over its competitor Multimedia Polska in a deal that was recently approved by the competition authority UOKiK following an investigation. Although it came with major strings attached, with Vectra being required to sell its networks in eight cities and give customers the option to change provider in a further 13, it also marked a major shift in Poland’s cable industry.
Vectra will now become its leading player in subscriber terms, overtaking UPC Polska for the first time in many years. It also highlights the fact that Liberty Global itself came very close to acquiring Multimedia in March 2018 before withdrawing its offer at the very the last moment when confronted with preconditions from UOKiK that it felt it could not meet. This opened the door for Vectra to make its initially low-key move to buy what was then Poland’s third largest cable operator.
These developments have come against the backdrop of a major retreat by Liberty Global from its European operations. This included the sale of its UPC cable assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania to Vodafone and UPC DTH to Luxembourg-based M7 Group, now owned by Canal+. In the cable sector, Liberty Global is still present in only two CEE markets, namely Poland and Slovakia, and it remains to be seen how long this will continue.
The second development, underlining this very point, saw ITI Neovision, the operator of the Polish DTH platform Platforma Canal+, announce that it is exploring the possibility of an IPO for rights currently held by its minority shareholders. These include Liberty Global, which through its subsidiary LGI Ventures owns a 17% stake in the company.
While Canal+ Group remains committed to retaining control of Platforma Canal+, the future involvement of both Liberty Global and Discovery’s TVN, which owns 32% of ITI Neovision, are now in doubt.