Vodafone seals UPC acquisition from Liberty Global

Vodafone has finalised a deal to acquire four fixed-line opcos from Liberty Global as it makes its latest move to turn itself into a provider of converged services in Europe.

The UK-based operator has agreed to buy the UPC businesses in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania, meaning it will add a portfolio of mainly cable-based broadband and TV services, as well as landline, to its existing mobile offering.

The deal values the four opcos at €18.4 billion, with Vodafone set to pay €10.8 billion in cash and take on €7.6 billion of debt from Liberty.

The announcement ends several rounds of discussions between the two companies, the latest of which were confirmed to be taking place in February.

Vodafone expects to make annual savings of around €535 million per year, but details about any potential job cuts were not included.

In a statement, Vodafone said it “values the expertise of the Liberty Global management teams and employees”.

The deal makes Vodafone Europe’s “leading next generation network owner” with access to 110 million premises and the telco said it expected to benefit from “resilient” new revenue streams.

In Germany, where UPC has 7.2 million customers, Vodafone will be in a better position to compete against Deutsche Telekom.

It promised to upgrade around 25 million cable households to “Gigabit-speed” connections within four years and pointed to the fact that, with 32 percent, UPC Germany has one of the lowest broadband penetration rates in Europe so is “well positioned” for growth.

The ARPU of UPC Germany’s TV subscribers is also lower than rivals, it said.

[Read more: Vodafone Germany to boost broadband network with €2 billion plan]

In the three other countries, Vodafone plans to cross sell services to UPC’s 1.8 million broadband and 2.1 million TV customers and its own 15.8 million mobile subscribers.

Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao said: “This transaction will create the first truly converged pan-European champion of competition.

“It represents a step change in Europe’s transition to a Gigabit Society and a transformative combination for Vodafone that will generate significant value for shareholders.”

The deal is subject to approval by the European Commission, with Vodafone hoping to complete by the middle of 2019.

Although the operator claimed there is “no negative impact on competition” thanks to the complementary nature of the two businesses, CCS Insight Analyst Paolo Pescatore is not convinced.

He said: “We strongly believe that regulators will block or restrict the deal.

“Vodafone and Liberty Global have a relatively solid presence in the fixed-line and TV markets, so any move would cut the number of companies in both segments.”

Pescatore added: “This is not a game changing move.

“Both companies are struggling to grow in a rapidly converging world.”

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