Marking its entry into the UK market, US cable company Liberty Global today announced that it has agreed a $23.3 billion deal to acquire Virgin Media in a stock and cash merger that will see it pick up over 25 million customers in 14 countries.
Virgin Media confirmed that it was in talks with US billionaire John Malone’s cable group less than 24 hours before the deal was signed, highlighting the fact the two parties were discussing a “possible transaction.” Liberty Global’s offer holds an equity value of $16 billion, and represents a value seven times Virgin Media’s 2013 estimated operating cash flow.
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Liberty Global says it will relocate from Delaware in the US, to the UK, by becoming a subsidiary of a new holding company. It believes forming a UK PLC will have “several business and financial benefits, including increased strategic and financial flexibility,” and says it will retain its current US HQ and other regional offices, adding one Virgin Media director to its global board of directors.
The US cable giant says it intends to remain trading under the Virgin Media banner, and will also look into the possibility of filing to go public on the European stock market.
With more than 25 million customers located across Europe, Virgin Media has been investing in its cable services to rival the UK’s biggest pay-TV provider BSkyB. Malone previously butted heads Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp over ten years ago, when Liberty Media fought its rival to gain control of DirecTV Group, the largest US satellite TV broadcaster.
Liberty Global already believes that around 80 percent of its revenue will come from the UK, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and the Netherlands following the completion of the deal, giving it a significant foothold in Europe, and the chance to expand Virgin Media’s its services to a wider customer base.
Richard Branson, who owns a 3 percent share in Virgin Media, is set to earn $316 million from the deal, profiting from the deal that saw NTL and Telewest merge and take on the Virgin name to offer pay-TV, broadband, fixed line and mobile services.