John Malone, the billionaire chairman of Liberty Global, removed all doubt that the cable group will make a counter bid for Kabel Deutschland, thereby conceding victory to Vodafone in the battle for ownership of the German cable group.
"Unfortunately the Vodafone guys have pre-empted us in trying to consolidate the rest of Germany," Malone told Bloomberg. "We wish Vodafone good luck. We're hoping they'll be a good fellow traveler in the cable business."
Vodafone agreed to buy Germany's largest cable operator last month after increasing its bid to €87 ($114) per share, or €7.7 billion, to top Liberty Global's €85 per share offer. The company plans to use the Kabel Deutschland assets to boost its multi-play offerings of fixed and mobile services in Germany, following a general trend among Europe's mobile operators to acquire fixed-line assets to shore up their businesses.
Vodafone has now said it plans to complete the acquisition as early as Kabel Deutschland's shareholder meeting on October 10, according to a Bloomberg report. The report, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, said Vodafone is in talks with the European Commission to address competition concerns and will decide soon whether to file for European Union antitrust approval. At the same time, Vodafone is said to anticipate a relatively smooth antitrust process.
Vodafone is expected to submit its official offer by the end of the month, and Kabel Deutschland is expected to recommend the offer to its shareholders.
For his part, Malone told Bloomberg that Liberty will look for opportunities in southern Europe when the time is right. "We're getting to the point where in northern Europe, we're pretty much as far as we can go," Malone added. "If southern Europe sort of hits the bottom, as it were, there are things we can do further south in scale."
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