Fries: Liberty Global will not ‘dismantle’ European business

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries

Liberty Global has no intention of “dismantling” its European business and remains committed to growing its business in markets where it can achieve national scale, according to president and CEO Mike Fries.

Speaking to analysts after the company reported mixed Q4 results, Fries said that Liberty remained committed to its core European markets.

The cable giant is in talks with Vodafone about possible disposals or exchanges of some assets, widely reported to include a possible disposal of its Unitymedia business in Germany, where Vodafone, as owner of former Kabel Deutschland, is the major cable player.

Liberty already operates a joint venture – VodafoneZiggo – with the mobile giant in the Netherlands.

“We are committed to our core markets, where we see a pathway to becoming a national champion,” Fries told analysts. He said that “scale matters more than ever” in Liberty Global’s business and the company would look to re-balance its business in certain territories.

Asked specifically about Liberty’s intentions in the German and Swiss markets, Fries declined to give specific indications about the company’s plans or negotiations with Vodafone. However, he said that in Germany the company had “optionality” but that Unitymedia was “a great business” that had proved to be “a home-run investment”.

“We think we have a company that is continuing to grow steadily with a broadband market that’s extremely exciting,” he said. He said that it was “awkward” to be more specific about the company’s plans but said that Liberty would either “grow with” the market or “look at options”.

Regarding Swtizerland, Fries said that this was a market in need of “rationalisation” and that Liberty had “some options” to consolidate or “become a larger player”. He said he did not expect a significant financial turnaround for Liberty’s Swiss operation this year in the face of competitive challenges and the company’s investment in sport rights, and compared Switzerland with the Dutch market where it took the company “three years to really get the fixed business…back on track”.