Liberty Global, the international cable giant controlled by John Malone, is close to selling a large chunk of its cable assets to European wireless giant Vodafone, in a deal valued at about $23 billion, according to several press reports.
According to The Financial Times, a deal could be announced as early as Wednesday morning and would include Liberty Global’s assets in Germany and Eastern Europe. Later reports, citing people familiar with the companies, said assets in Hungary, Czech Republic and Romania would be involved in the deal.
The transaction would create a strong No. 2 competitor to Deutsche Telekom, which dominates the area. And though it would face intense regulatory scrutiny, the combined entity would create a full quad-play provider of wireless, internet, video and landline telephony.
Vodafone, which has more than 120 million wireless customers in Europe, also has been a player in the cable space. It already owns Kabel Deutschland, the largest cable operator in Germany and Ono in Spain. Liberty Global’s U.K. operations, offered under the Virgin Media brand, are not part of the discussions.
Last year Vodafone entered into a joint venture with Liberty Global’s Ziggo in The Netherlands to create a quadruple play offering of wireless, video, voice and data.
The two companies haven’t made their interest a secret – they last acknowledged they were in talks in February.
Like its U.S. counterparts, Liberty Global has struggled with video subscriber losses. Liberty Global lost about 84,000 video revenue generating units in the first quarter, more than five times the 15,000 RGUs it shed in the prior year.
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