Liberty Buys Polish Cable Operator for $802 Million

Liberty Global Inc., the cable company controlled by billionaire John Malone, said it agreed to buy Polish cable television operator Aster Sp. z o.o.

Liberty, which already owns Aster’s Polish rival UPC Polska Sp. z o.o., will purchase the cable TV business from Mid Europa Partners LLP for about 2.4 billion zloty ($802 million), the U.S.-based company said in a statement today. Liberty agreed to pay the private equity company 870 million zloty and will repay its debt of 1.53 billion zloty.

The transaction adds to $13.9 billion of Polish mergers this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg, up from $4.61 billion in all of 2009 after Banco Santander SA of Spain bought Bank Zachodni WBK SA for 16.6 billion zloty and Cyfrowy Polsat SA paid 3.75 billion zloty for Telewizja Polsat SA.

Aster, which operates mainly in Warsaw and Krakow, had 368,000 TV subscribers, 177,000 Internet customers and 70,000 users of its phone services on Sept. 30, Liberty said in the statement. It said the deal values Aster at 7.3 times its 2011 earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Mid Europa Partners LLP, a London-based buyout firm targeting midsized deals in central and eastern Europe, doubled its original investment in the sale and had a 23 percent internal rate of return, Matthew Strassberg, the partner who led the transaction, said in a phone interview.

UPC is the largest cable TV operator in Poland with 1.1 million customers, according to Liberty’s website.

The transaction is subject to Polish antitrust office approval. Liberty said it expects to close the deal in the first half of 2011.

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