Monday 20 November 2017

Vodafone free to complete £9bn Kabel deal after Liberty admits defeat

Andrew Trotman

Vodafone is free to complete a £9.1bn (€10.5bn) deal for Germany’s largest cable company, Kabel Deutschland, after rival bidder Liberty Global admitted defeat.

John Malone, the billionaire chairman of Liberty, said the British telecoms giant had beaten him to the Kabel deal and he would now focus on opportunities in southern Europe.

“Unfortunately the Vodafone guys have pre-empted us in trying to consolidate the rest of Germany,” Mr Malone told Bloomberg. “We wish Vodafone good luck. We’re hoping they’ll be a good fellow traveller in the cable business.”

Last month, Kabel’s board said it would recommend Vodafone’s €87-per-share offer, which values the company at $7.7bn (£6.6bn). The total value of the acquisition will top £9.1bn as it includes £2.6bn in debt.

Beating Liberty’s bid by €2 a share, it marks Vodafone’s biggest deal since the 2007 acquisition of the Indian mobile network operator Essar for £5.5bn.

Vitorrio Colao, Vodafone’s chief executive, said last month he expected the acquisition of Kabel Deutschland to be “pretty straightforward” and that it was a “very attractive growing business”. Germany’s antitrust watchdog is expected to scrutinise the deal but neither company is dominant in their market.

Regulatory concerns meant Vodafone was always front runner to take Kabel Deutschland ahead of Liberty. The American group already owns Germany’s number two cable operator and creating a single national network would be likely to run up against strict media pluralism rules.

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