Liberty Global CEO on the Hunt for Deals in Latin America
(Bloomberg) -- Liberty Global Plc is on the lookout for more acquisitions in Latin America and the Caribbean after completing its $5.3 billion purchase of a phone operator in the region this year, its chief executive officer said in an interview.
The Europe-focused cable company, backed by billionaire John Malone, is also one of the largest providers in Latin America and the Caribbean and is in a “strong operating position” in that region after purchasing Cable & Wireless Communications, CEO Mike Fries said in a phone interview. Earlier on Thursday, the company released quarterly results that narrowly missed analysts’ revenue estimates.
“We’re now poised, we think, to look at interesting opportunities in the region, but I don’t have any specifics to talk about,” Fries said. He wouldn’t say whether Liberty Global would be interested in AT&T Inc.’s DirecTV business in the region, which some analysts have suggested could be sold to help AT&T shore up its balance sheet after the $85.4 billion deal to acquire Time Warner Inc.
Liberty Global, with operations from the U.K. to Jamaica, has been focusing on broadband and mobile-phone services for growth while continuing a more than decade-long trend of acquiring pay-TV businesses. The company is nearing a completion of a deal to partner with Vodafone Group Plc in the Netherlands, aimed at challenging the local units of Royal KPN NV and Deutsche Telekom AG.
The cable company is also continuing to focus on expansion in Europe by driving fixed and mobile service scale in each of its existing markets, Fries said.
“I think Europe will end up with one, two, or three fixed-mobile, converged players in each market and we want to be one of them,” Fries said.
In Poland, where Liberty Global announced the $760 million acquisition of Multimedia Polska SA last month, more consolidation is needed, though the company doesn’t have anything “in the pipeline,” Fries said. With Vodafone, Liberty is solely focused on closing their Dutch venture later this year, he said.
Liberty Global will continue to be opportunistic about potential acquisitions in the U.K., though “there’s nothing imminent,” Fries said. For its Virgin Media unit, the company is looking at various options for so-called mobile virtual network offerings, where a wireless operator uses space on another carrier’s network. Virgin Media’s current agreement to use the BT Group Plc network will expire in 2018.
Plans announced in September to expand Liberty Global’s partnership with Netflix Inc. are expected to reduce customer attrition, and even help the company attract customers as Netflix has differentiated its content, Fries said. Virgin Media already allows access to the Netflix application on its cable platform boxes.
“We want to be a provider of the best content there is,” Fries said. “It drives broadband happiness.”