Liberty Global’s O’Neill predicts M&A activity this year, KDG “a bridge too far”

Shane O’Neill, chief strategy officer at cable group Liberty Global, told delegates at the Cable Congress in Brussels this morning that he expected merger activity in the European cable industry to ramp up significantly in the next 12 months.

Taking part in a finance panel session at the conference, O’Neill confirmed that Liberty Global had about US$3bn (€2.2bn) to spend on acquisitions and said that he expected significant M&A activity in the cable market in general in a number of territories this year. “Over the next 12 months you will see a lot of activity around German and Benelux,” he said. “Ziggo may come to market in the next 12 to 18 months. Also, central and eastern Europe is the other big market for us.”

O’Neill ruled out any interest in German cable operator Kabel Deutschland (KDG), currently preparing for an IPO, following Liberty Global’s entry into the market via its recent acquisition of Unitymedia. “It would be great to put those together but we have to realistic and sensitive to the regulatory environment in Germany,” he said. “Right now it’s a bridge too far.”

O’Neill also said that the fact that cable had emerged “relatively unscathed” from the economic meltdown of last year was “a testament to the strength of [its] business model”.