John Malone and Liberty Global are moving into wireless. Malone has been buying up cable and television assets in Europe for years, and has established a dominant position.
However, the entertainment industry is evolving rapidly, and Malone’s Liberty Global was clearly falling behind in mobile and wireless. That’s why it’s not too surprising that Liberty Global announced on Monday that it was planning to buy Base, the third-biggest wireless carrier in Belgium. Telenet Group Holding NV, a Liberty subsidiary in Belgium will pay Royal KPN NV around $1.4 billion for Base.
Of note, now Telenet can sell its own mobile service instead of just leasing network capacity from other carriers, so they can now offer consumers bundles of Internet, television programming, landline phone and wireless service more affordably.
Statements from industry analysts on Liberty Global deal for Base
The acquisition clearly increases the odds of a deal between Liberty and Vodafone, the No. 2 mobile carrier worldwide by customers, pointed out Rick Mattila, an analyst at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International in London. “Today’s move is something of an admission from Liberty Global that convergence of mobile and cable is probably the way to go,” Mattila continued. “And if this is Liberty saying convergence makes sense, it means Liberty and Vodafone makes sense.”
The Netherlands is a likely next step for Liberty, because the company is already the dominant cable provider in the country but lags in wireless, Guy Peddy, an analyst at Macquarie Group in London, noted. Peddy went on to say that T-Mobile Netherlands, Deutsche Telekom AG’s Dutch division, saw over 300,000 customers change carriers last year and “could come into play.”
Statement from Telenet CEO
The deal for Base in Belgium works business-wise because the company already has a “substantial” mobile customer base in the country — about 900,000 as of year-end 2014 — Telenet CEO John Porter commented in an interview with Bloomberg. “The rationale for acquiring a network is much more compelling in Belgium than in probably any other Liberty Global country,” Porter said.