Malone as ‘Happy’ Owner of Liberty Says He’d Look at M&A Offers

Malone as ‘Happy’ Owner of Liberty Says He’d Look at M&A Offers

John Malone, the U.S. cable magnate who built Europe’s largest cable-television operator through acquisitions, said while he would consider offers for Liberty Global Plc, he’s “happy” with the company as is. As Vodafone Group Plc (VOD) nears closing a $130 billion sale of its stake in U.S. venture Verizon Wireless, the question of how the second-biggest mobile phone company could spend the windfall has focused on its recent efforts to expand in cable. Since Vodafone agreed to buy Kabel Deutschland Holding AG (KD8) in June, speculation has shifted to whether Liberty Global will be among its next targets.“As a fiduciary for our shareholders, we would consider any proposals,” Malone said by e-mail to Bloomberg News in response to questions on a possible tie-up with Vodafone. “However, we’re happy as we are at LGI and think well positioned to grow and create shareholder value as an independent.”

Vodafone could announce as early as today the sale of its stake in the mobile-phone venture to majority owner Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), according to people familiar with the talks. The Newbury, England-based company bested Malone this summer for German cable provider Kabel Deutschland, and could use the proceeds of the Verizon sale to snap up more, both to expand outside of wireless and as a defense against AT&T Inc., which has been scouring Europe for mobile-phone assets.

Other independent European cable operators include Spain’s Grupo Corporativo ONO SA, Jazztel Plc (JAZ), France’s Numericable SAS and Zon Multimedia SGPS SA in Portugal.

‘Real Candidate’

“Liberty is a real candidate” for Vodafone and “Malone is in strongest position and can and will play hard on price,” Stuart Gordon, an analyst with Berenberg Bank in London, said today in an e-mail. Such a deal “would not solve Spain or Italy, so would leave ONO, Jazztel and possible Fastweb as potential alternative candidates.”

Liberty Global, with cable operations in 14 countries including Germany and the Netherlands, has a market capitalization of $30 billion. The London-based company reported net debt of nearly $42 billion as of June 30. This year, it bought the U.K.’s Virgin Media Inc. for $16 billion and has raised its stake in Dutch cable provider Ziggo NV (ZIGGO) to 28.5 percent.

Malone told Bloomberg in a July interview that Liberty Global would also look to southern Europe for growth opportunities.

“We’re getting to the point where in northern Europe, we’re pretty much as far as we can go,” Malone said in that interview. “If southern Europe sort of hits the bottom, as it were, there are things we can do further south in scale.”

Verizon’s board will vote on the terms of the Vodafone deal today, said a person familiar with the matter, who asked not to be identified because the details haven’t been made public yet.

To contact the reporters on this story: Kristen Schweizer in London at kschweizer1@bloomberg.net; Adam Ewing in Stockholm at aewing5@bloomberg.net

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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