Vodafone, Liberty Global Said to Resume Talks on Partnership

  • Talks may lead to asset swaps, joint ventures, co-investments
  • Discussions restarted this year after earlier talks fell apart

Vodafone Group Plc and Liberty Global Plchave resumed talks about possible asset swaps in Europe after scrapping deliberations involving some of their biggest markets last year, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The talks -- which include asset swaps and co-investments in several European countries -- restarted since the beginning of the year, said the people, who asked not to be named since the discussions are private. The deliberations, which don’t include discussions about a full merger, are at an early stage and may not lead to a deal, they said.

Vodafone shares climbed as much as 3.4 percent in London, erasing earlier losses. They gained 2.1 percent to 230.10 pence at 12:09 p.m.

A spokesman for Vodafone declined to comment. A representative for Liberty didn’t have an immediate comment.

The Netherlands, where Vodafone operates a mobile business and Liberty owns cable TV assets, will be a focus of the talks, one of the people said. Liberty is interested in expanding in the country and may make an offer for Deutsche Telekom AG’slocal mobile unit if the negotiations with Vodafone don’t lead to an agreement, the person said.

Previous Talks

Previous talks between Vodafone and Liberty ended in September after the companies couldn’t agree on the value of U.K. and German operations, two of the largest markets for both, a person familiar with the matter said at the time. Cable TV billionaire John Malone, Liberty’s chairman, has said that while the companies’ assets would fit well together in Europe, philosophical differences on dividends and expansion will make a combination difficult.

Liberty Global and Vodafone together have more than $80 billion in annual revenue and about $115 billion in combined market capitalization.

An asset swap or other collaboration could give Vodafone an opportunity to gain pay-TV and broadband businesses as it seeks to reduce its reliance on a wireless business that has suffered from a fierce price war in Europe. For Liberty Global, a deal with Vodafone would deepen a shift in strategy at a media company that until recently has shied away from owning wireless networks.

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