Liberty In Dutch Deal

Liberty Media Corp. said it has reached an agreement to purchase NV Casema, the third-largest cable operator in the Netherlands, from France Telecom for about $737.3 million in cash.

The deal would bring another 1.5 million Dutch homes passed to Liberty, which already owns an indirect controlling interest in that country's No. 1 cable provider, United Pan-European Communications N.V. with 2.3 million subscribers.

Possibly to appease Dutch regulators, Liberty said that it has no intention to combine Casema with UPC, but that it wouldn't exclude closer cooperation between the two companies.

Casema has a presence in key Dutch cities like The Hague, Utrecht and Breda, and provides both analog and digital-cable service as well as telephony and high-speed data. The deal also gives Liberty a foothold in the Dutch business voice and data market.

Liberty Media expects to finance the transaction with a combination of cash and new bank financing. Closing of the transaction, which is expected in the fourth quarter, is subject to regulatory approval from The Netherlands Competition Authority, and other customary closing conditions.

News of the Casema deal comes as Liberty was rumored to be out of the bidding for Deutsche Telekom's cable assets. Liberty, whose earlier $5.4 billion agreement to buy the DT assets was rejected by German regulators, had been expected to re-emerge once DT reopened the auction.

Last week, DT announced that it had selected five bidders from nine offers received for the German cable assets. Among the bidders, according to the Financial Times, is U.S. private equity firm Providence Equity, which has teamed up with Apax Partners, another U.S. investment company, for a bid.

Although DT did not release the names of any bidders, the Financial Times
reported that bids have come in the $1.96 billion to $2.95 billion range, well below Liberty's rejected offer.