Report: Liberty Global rules out becoming Germany's fourth mobile operator

As the European Commission further extended the deadline for its decision on Telefónica Deutschland's planned €8.55 billion ($11.72 billion) acquisition of KPN's E-Plus, Liberty Global's German cable unit reportedly said it is not interested in becoming Germany's fourth mobile operator should the deal be approved.

Telefónica Deutschland had reportedly offered concessions to gain clearance that may have included a commitment to cede spectrum to allow for a new entrant and thereby maintain the number of German operators at four. Liberty Global was understood to be one of the parties in discussion over such plans.

Citing comments made by Unitymedia CEO Lutz Schüler on the sidelines of the ANGA trade fair in Cologne, the German edition of the Wall Street Journal reported that Unitymedia has no plans to build its own network, although the company stressed that it does intend to invest more in mobile services.

"Our own network would not pay off," Schüler told the paper. However, he said Unitymedia still wanted to meet the growing customer demand for services from one source and on one bill and was therefore looking at potential partnerships. As things stand, Telefónica Deutschland looks to be the favourite.

Unitymedia already uses the O2 Germany network owned by Telefónica to offer mobile services to its 7.1 million customers, and the Journal said 250,000 of these customers have a Unitymedia SIM card.

The company also has its work cut out to compete with larger competitors such as Vodafone Germany, which recently gained its own cable base by buying Kabel Deutschland, and Deutsche Telekom, which is a formidable rival on the high-speed broadband market.

Schüler's comments came after the European Commission's antitrust officials said the deadline for the decision on the Telefónica Deutschland-E-Plus deal had been extended to July 3, "in agreement with all parties".

The Commission is also investigating the proposed acquisition of O2 Ireland by Hutchison Whampoa. Here, Liberty Cable-owned UPC is understood to be close to signing a deal that would enable it to launch a mobile virtual network operator on the 3 Ireland network and fulfil Commission requirements to create a new fourth player on the Irish mobile market.

For more:
- see this Wall Street Journal Europe article (sub. req.)
- see this Wall Street Journal Deutschland article (in German)

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