Liberty Global makes move for Virgin Media

Liberty Global is planning to bid for UK cable operator Virgin Media, with a move expected in the coming days, according to the UK’s Financial Times newspaper, citing sources familiar with the situation.

In a brief statement, Virgin Media confirmed that the pair had been in talks. “Virgin Media confirms that it is in discussions with Liberty Global, Inc., a leading international cable company, concerning a possible transaction. Any such transaction would be subject to regulatory and other conditions. A further announcement will be made in due course,” the company said.

Shares in Virgin Media on the NASDAQ exchange closed at US$38.69 yesterday, giving Virgin Media a valuation of US$10.4 billion. The company has an estimated enterprise value of US$20 billion including debt. Liberty Global reported cash reserves of US$3.3 billion in its third quarter earnings, with some of that earmarked for the company’s buyback programme.

A successful bid for the UK’s sole large-scale cable provider would put Liberty Global chairman John Malone in direct competition with his old rival Rupert Murdoch, chairman of BSkyB’s main shareholder News Corp. In the UK, Malone has previously attempted unsuccessfully to bid for NTL, and also acquired a significant stake in Telewest, the two companies that later merged to form Virgin Media. There was some speculation in 2011 that he would make a bid for BSkyB in the wake of the collapse of News Corp’s move to take control of the company, but Malone quashed this, saying he would not bid against Murdoch.