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UPC will not buy Ziggo after all

By PETER WHITE

Published: 16 September, 2011

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We made it clear when the idea was mooted that UPC is unable to buy rival Netherlands pay TV operator Ziggo and this week it confirmed there were no talks in progress.

After buying Kabel BW and Unity Media, Liberty Global does not have enough cash to buy Ziggo and we reckon it would also have been crushed by anti-trust concerns. The price for Ziggo would be around €7 billion and funding such a deal for UPC was a sticking point, and it would have had to borrow heavily to structure a deal, since the private equity owners of Ziggo would want to exit the deal almost entirely and would at best accept 50% of the price in Liberty Shares.

So a deal that was never going to happen, isn't going to happen after all which makes it kind of non-news really. Mike Fries, UPC CEO argued that he may come back to such a deal at some point in the future. But it will have to be as KPN takes more and more of the pay TV market in the Netherlands - think in terms of three to four years of Ziggo and UPC losing TV customers and KPN gaining them before that's on the cards.

It was straightforward. A company that couldn't really afford such a deal, would ensure that any IPO had to be overpriced, by offering more for it than the IPO would bring shareholders. Then the Ziggo management are caught in a bind, not wanting to lose their jobs and go to UPC and not wanting to fight an anti-trust war to do it, so both deals are off. It's an age-old technique.

Ziggo is owned by private equity firms who have been committed in some cases for 6 years. They will have to exit Ziggo quite soon we feel, so expect an IPO in the next 12 months regardless of pricing.

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