Liberty Global runs out of options for European expansion

Liberty Global owner John Malone has given up hope of buying Kabel Deutschland to become the dominant force in German cable TV. At the same time, he has admitted there are few options left for significant expansion in Europe’s biggest and most lucrative pay-TV markets, although that is largely because he has exhausted many of them on an acquisition spree over the last few years. During that time Liberty Global has bought both Unity Media Kabel BW in Germany, and then most recently the UK’s top cable operator Virgin Media for $23 billion.

Now UK-based telco Vodafone, to date predominantly a mobile operator, is set to acquire Kabel Deutschland for €7.7 billion, with Liberty Global surrendering not so much on price but because it was likely to meet strong opposition from the regulator on the grounds this would give Liberty Global near total control of German cable TV. With options for further expansion in northern and central Europe now limited, Liberty Global is looking beyond its geographical and cable sector heartland into southern Europe and also into satellite operation to satisfy its growth lust.

Malone has stated there are possibilities in southern Europe where the dire state of some economies means that there are some bargains to be had. Meanwhile Malone is eyeing up developing markets outside Europe, with Indian business newspaper The Economic Times reporting that Bharti Airtel is looking to sell a 25 percent stake of its DTH operation for $1.5 billion, with Liberty Global among interested parties.