Vodafone and Liberty in talks to “exchange assets”

UK telco Vodafone has confirmed it is in talks with cable giant Liberty Global, but stressed an outright merger is not on the current agenda, rather an exchange of assets.

For some reason Vodafone decided recent speculation linking the two in some kind of corporate manoeuvre needed addressing, so it said in a statement: “Vodafone confirms that it is in the early stages of discussions with Liberty Global regarding a possible exchange of selected assets between the two companies. There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor is there certainty with respect to which assets will ultimately be involved. Vodafone is not in discussions with Liberty Global concerning a combination of the two companies.”

Liberty Global has yet to make an equivalent statement, implying it’s not so concerned about setting the record straight. Vodafone itself has dragged its feet somewhat on the announcement since the most recent round (this story has been doing the rounds ever since Vodafone sold its stake in Verizon) of media speculation commenced on 22 May, leading to a spike in Vodafone’s share price of around 4%. At time of writing Vodafone’s London share price had fallen a couple of percent on the announcement.

The obvious interest Vodafone would have in Liberty is Virgin Media, which was acquired by Liberty Global for $23.3 billion back in 2013. Vodafone is under pressure to improve its multiplay capability following BT’s proposed acquisition of EE and the proposed merger of O2 and Three, which would make Vodafone a distant third in the UK mobile market with little domestic broadband or content presence. Owning, or at least partnering, with Virgin Media would, of course, change this.

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