Liberty Global set to begin LatAm acquisition spree with Choice

Liberty Global has announced that together with investment firm Searchlight, it has signed an agreement to acquire Puerto Rican Choice Cable, the territory’s second largest cable and broadband services provider. If successful in its bid, the cable giant will merge Choice with its subsidiary Liberty Cablevision Puerto Rico (LCPR).

The combined business would be the biggest cable operator in Puerto Rico, and its ownership structure would be 40-60% Liberty-Searchlight respectively. In August  this year, Choice had a network of 345,000 homes and 154,000 individual subscribers.

“The Choice transaction will build upon our 2012 acquisition of OneLink and will complete cable consolidation on the island of Puerto Rico,” Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global said. “Going forward, our market-leading bundles and commitment to network investment and innovation will meaningfully enhance the products and services available to Choice customers.”

Billionaire John Malone-owned Liberty has been one of the most aggressive acquisitionists of recent times, especially in Europe where it has invested an estimated $40 billion in the period from February to August this year alone. Its European acquisitions have included Virgin Media in the UK, Dutch Ziggo and a stake in UK broadcaster ITV.

Fries makes it clear the firm is not set to hold back in Latin America either. “Upon completion, our network will reach over 80% of Puerto Rican homes, and the combined business will serve more than 700,000 RGUs [revenue generating units] and generate over $380 million of annual revenue,” he said. “Additionally, this will be the first new asset in our anticipated tracking stock for our businesses in Latin America and the Caribbean.”

Eric Zinterhofer, co-founder of Searchlight said: “We are excited about the opportunity to bring next-generation video capability and enhanced broadband services to Choice’s customers. Furthermore, through the creation of an island-wide cable operator, there are significant opportunities to drive scale benefits and develop incremental residential and commercial business opportunities in Puerto Rico.”

The transaction is valued at approximately $272.5 million, which according to Liberty equates to 6.1 times its own estimate for Choice’s 2015 full-year operating cash flow. The deal is pending regulatory approval and expected to close within the first half of 2015.

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