The Spanish owner of O2 has confirmed the mobile operator is in talks with the cable operator Virgin Media over the possible merger of their UK businesses.
The confirmation, in a stock market filing, helped Telefonica shares rise on Monday in a market otherwise in negative territory. At this early stage, Telefonica said there was “no guarantee” of a conclusion.
The O2 mobile network is the largest in the UK with 34 million customers including the Tesco Mobile and Giffgaff.
Virgin Media runs an MVNO that is currently operated by BT Enterprise. It will move to Vodafone when the present contract expires in 2021.
Virgin Media has 5.27 million broadband subscribers, 3.69 million TV subs and 3.18 million mobile telephony customers.
Liberty Global, through its European venture Liberty Media, has been gradually moving away from control of its operations.
Much of its former fortress, such as Germany’s Unitymedia, has been sold to Vodafone, with who it runs the Vodafone-Ziggo JV in the Netherlands. The British telco was seen as a potential suitor for its operations in the UK and Ireland.