Wednesday 29 March 2017

TV3 buyer's revenue hit by loss of Dutch cable subscribers

John Malone, the billionaire owner of Liberty Global
John Malone, the billionaire owner of Liberty Global

Donal O'Donovan, Kristen Schweizer and Gerrit De Vynck

The media giant that owns TV3 and UPC has reported a decline in second-quarter revenue as its Dutch unit lost customers, highlighting the difficulties faced by billionaire John Malone's Liberty Global in its hunt for growth.

The London-based cable company said it lost 87,000 subscriptions in the Netherlands in part because of "operational challenges associated with our network" and competition. Liberty Global bought Ziggo last year for €4.9bn.

Across Europe Liberty Global is seeking growth from broadband customers and TV production as video loses ground to streaming and on-demand services.

Last month the group bought TV3 here in an €87m deal, and raised its stake in British production and broadcast group ITV to almost 10pc.

It now owns cable and wireless providers from Hungary to the UK.

"Strong demand for our triple and quad-play bundles continues to support our results despite difficulties in the Netherlands, which continued to face competitive and integration challenges," chief executive officer Mike Fries said in a statement.

That is a reference to customer packages that bundle mobile and fixed lines phone services, broadband and paid TV into single contracts.

Overall, Liberty Global added 138,000 subscriptions for the period versus 180,000 predicted by analysts at Pivotal Research Group in New York.

Sales fell 0.8pc to $4.57bn from a year earlier, matching the average of analysts' estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Net loss widened to $409.9m from $241.2m a year earlier.

Liberty Global is also in talks to exchange assets with wireless carrier Vodafone Group, as the two companies move toward providing packages of Web, TV and mobile service.

Last week, Liberty Global increased its stake in UK broadcaster ITV, which distributes shows such as 'Downton Abbey'.

In April, Liberty Global agreed to buy its first European wireless company, called Base, in Belgium.

The deal gives Liberty control of a mobile-phone network, whereas in other countries it has to lease capacity from other carriers.

With Vodafone's mobile assets, Liberty Global could expand its offers for "quad-play" services, combining TV, landline phone, broadband Internet and wireless service.

In an interview with Bloomberg in May, Irish-American Mr Malone said a merger with Vodafone in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands would be attractive.

Shares of Liberty Global have advanced 11pc this year in New York, giving the company a market value of $44bn.

(Additional reporting by

Bloomberg)

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