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How to Pull Off a $39 Billion Merger During a Lockdown

  • Telefonica, Liberty seal U.K. telecom merger online amid Covid
  • Biggest pandemic deal with 02, Virgin followed months of talks
Liberty Global Plc, Telefonica SA in Talks to Build $30 Billion U.K. Arm
Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg
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A good month before China alerted health authorities to an unknown respiratory virus spreading through Hubei province, executives from Telefonica SA in Madrid and Liberty Global Plc in Denver began to assemble an audacious merger plan.

The two communications powerhouses each owned assets in the U.K., among the most competitive markets in Europe, a region where consolidation had stumbled in recent years. Now, in mid-November, the timing seemed right to reconsider a combination of local units. Stock markets were booming, borrowing costs were near record lows, and the U.K. under Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to have finally cut through the tangled knot of Brexit.