Liberty Global and Vodafone consider Dutch joint venture

Vodafone and Liberty Global have confirmed that they are in talks over a possible joint venture in the Netherlands.

In a brief statement, UK-based Vodafone said the discussions are ongoing and do not extend beyond the creation of a joint venture in the Netherlands. "There is no certainty as to when or whether any transaction will be agreed," the company added.

Speculation that Vodafone and Liberty Global would engage in some sort of transaction has never completely died down. In September last year, the two companies ended discussions after three months of talks on a possible asset swap, but analysts said at the time that a deal between the two companies still remained a "distinct possibility".

Indeed, Jefferies International said in September that it continued to believe a takeover of Liberty by Vodafone remained a "credible scenario," although Vodafone has always said it was not in talks on a possible combination of the two groups.

A joint venture in the Netherlands would bring together Vodafone Netherlands and cable operator Ziggo, thus creating a larger group with a strong convergence play.

Certainly, competition from rival converged fixed and mobile offerings has been something of a thorn in the side of the mobile operator's Dutch unit. In December, Vodafone Netherlands launched legal action against KPN, alleging that anti-competitive behaviour on the part of the incumbent telecoms operator delayed its ability to compete effectively during a crucial period for the Dutch multi-play market.

The mobile operator said KPN delayed by three years the nationwide introduction of Vodafone's competing triple-play plan, Vodafone Thuis (Vodafone At Home) -- which combines TV, fixed-line broadband and fixed-line telephone services -- "by failing repeatedly to meet its commitments to deliver the technology needed." That, in turn, had an automatic impact on Vodafone NL's ability to offer quadruple-play packages, which typically combine triple-play plans with mobile propositions.

Vodafone NL estimated the total damages to its business at €115 million ($125.5 million) because it was prevented from gaining a significant market share "in a crucial period when more than 100,000 households per quarter chose to move to 'all-in-one' propositions."

Also in December, the Dutch Consumer Multiplay Market 2015 Q3 report from Telecompaper revealed that Dutch telecoms operators increased revenue from multi-play subscriptions by 7.4 per cent year on year to €933 million in the third quarter of 2015 as interest in plans that combine three or more telecoms services continues to grow.

The report noted that the number of households with quad-play subscriptions reached more than 600,000 at the end of the quarter.

For more:
- see the Vodafone statement

Related articles:
Report: Dutch multi-play revenue nears €1B in Q3
Vodafone NL sues KPN for delaying its multi-play ambitions
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Analysts say a Vodafone-Liberty deal is still possible after asset-swap talks end