Liberty Global signals LATAM ambitions with Cable and Wireless Communications acquisition

Liberty Global has agreed to buy Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) in a deal valued at $8.2 billion, a valuation that is 10.7 times the acquisition target’s EBITDA.

According to a Liberty statement, the deal will help its ‘growing ambitions in Latin America and the Caribbean’. Liberty Global, the world’s largest international cable television company, has annual revenues of $18 billion from 27 million subscribers buying 57 million distinct services.

By adding CWC’s technical strength and 1.5 million customers in Puerto Rico and Chile to Liberty’s reach in adjoining markets and its submarine and terrestrial fibre networks the merged organisation aims to speed the growth of its consumer and B2B markets in those regions, it said.

The combined business will serve 10 million video, data, voice and mobile subscribers and CWC adds ‘significant scale and management depth to our fast-growing operations in Latin America and the Caribbean’ said Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries in an official statement. CWC’s revenue from Panama and the Caribbean were $1.75 bn in 2014. Liberty Global will take on CWC’s $2.7 billion debt.

The logic of the deal is to build out a distribution platform and then use it as economic leverage to drive content negotiations, Aviate Global analyst Neil Campling told Bloomberg. Liberty built out infrastructure first in Europe and now it’s adding content deals to that distribution platform, which it already has in the US. With this CWC deal Liberty is “repeating the tried-and-trusted approach in Latin America,” said Campling.

Following the announcement, at the close of trading on Monday, Liberty Global shares had fallen 2.8% in value.

In the last two years CWC has transformed itself into a leading regional quad play operator and it has a substantial long-term growth opportunity ahead of it, said CWC chairman Sir Richard Lapthorne in an official statement. However, said Lapthorne, “the recommended offer represents an attractive premium for shareholders and secures earlier delivery of our long-term value potential.”

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