Liberty Global Plc (LBTYA), the cable company controlled by billionaire John Malone, plans to offer mobile phone services to customers throughout Europe, taking on carriers such as the U.K.’s Vodafone Group Plc.
Liberty Global will put together a so-called mobile virtual network operator system, or MVNO, the name given to companies that use other carriers’ wireless infrastructure for their own mobile services, Senior Vice President Manuel Kohnstamm said in a interview yesterday in Amsterdam.
“We’re working on a deep MVNO, and we don’t only do that in Austria but in the whole of Europe,” Kohnstamm said. “We’re constructing a pan-European MVNO platform.”
Liberty Global will be able to keep margins high because, as a European cable TV operator, the company runs one billing system, one back-office and one back-haul, which connects the core network to the smaller subnetworks, he said. The company is introducing the MVNO network in the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria and the U.K., Kohnstamm said.
The company has been active on acquisitions in the European cable market in recent years, taking over Virgin Media Inc. in the U.K. in 2013 and agreeing to buy Dutch operator Ziggo NV (ZIGGO) in January.
London-based Liberty Global has now reached “a critical mass,” Kohnstamm said, which has led the company to having sufficient scale to be competitive on delivering hardware, research and development, technology and content. While the company isn’t actively pursuing acquisitions, it hasn’t lost interest in potential takeovers.
“We will always be interested and look around,” Kohnstamm said, adding that he mostly sees a role for small and middle-sized companies.
“They are the ones having to compete with Deutsche Telekom, Belgacom and KPN, which also invest and innovate further,” Kohnstamm said. For that reason, he eventually sees those companies being just as interested in joining Liberty as Liberty is in them.
Belgium’s Telenet Group Holding NV (TNET), which Liberty Global failed to take over after Telenet’s shareholders rejected a bid in 2013, isn’t one of those smaller companies Liberty is aiming for at the moment.
“We’re a very happy controlling shareholder in Telenet,” Kohnstamm said.
To contact the reporter on this story: Elco van Groningen in Amsterdam at firstname.lastname@example.org