Virgin Media and Liberty Global in talks for possible tie-up

Nathan Andrada – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

London, United Kingdom (4E) – Virgin Media Inc. said Tuesday that it is currently in tie-up talks with international cable operator Liberty Global Inc., a deal that would potentially shake up the UK pay-TV and internet market.

Liberty is planning to take over Virgin, the second biggest pay-TV business behind BSkyB in the UK, according to a Financial Times report. Virgin confirmed that discussions are ongoing for a possible transaction, although the company did not provide further details.

The acquisition of Virgin Media would add almost 5 million cable customers to Liberty Global, posing a potent challenge to British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc., which is owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp and controls the largest UK pay-TV market.

Billionaire John Malone is seeking to expand Liberty Global’s reach outside the U.S. He also runs pay-TV companies that operate in other European countries like Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.

In 2011, Liberty Global acquired German cable provider Kabel Baden-Wuerttemberg (KBW) for $4.5bn. It also owns KBW’s rival Unitymedia. Last month, the company increased its stake to 58 per cent in Belgian cable operator Telenet Group Holding NV.

Malone’s Liberty Media and Murdoch’s News Corp also clashed a decade ago for the control of U.S. satellite TV broadcaster DirecTV.

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