Liberty Global rules out Spanish push

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries.

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries

Liberty Global has denied that it is looking to make a move into the Spanish market, despite recent reports that the European cable giant and Vodafone had both explored multi-billion Euro bids for ONO.

Speaking on Liberty Global’s fourth quarter earnings call, CEO Mike Fries said that while the firm does not comment on mergers and acquisitions “in this instance I can more or less tell you we are probably not looking at Spain.”

Asked specifically about if ONO could fit Liberty’s M&A strategy and its efforts to move into new markets, Fries said: “That market does not fit, for a lot of reasons today, into what we are trying to achieve in the European marketplace and we don’t have the synergies [or], quite frankly, the confidence in that country or that asset that others have. So I don’t see us participating there.”

He added: “We are focused, as I think I have said for over a decade now on our core markets first and trying to build scale in the countries that are most important to us.”

The news comes less than a week after ONO’s board of directors backed plans to take the company public, claiming that no proposals related to an acquisition of the firm were presented or discussed during a meeting at the company’s headquarters in Madrid.

Earlier this month, mobile telecom giant Vodafone was reported to have tabled a €6.9 billion bid for ONO, while at the end of January, Liberty was also reported to be in the running for the Spanish operator.

Spain is one of the few European markets where Liberty Global is not present, while the firm has been on an acquisition spree to shore up its presence elsewhere on the continent.

Liberty agreed to buy Ziggo last month in a deal that values the Dutch cable operator at roughly €10 billion, and in 2013 bought the UK’s Virgin Media for some €17.2 billion.

Speaking on the earnings call, Fries said that along with those two deals, Liberty’s sale of Chellomedia will allow it reposition its content investments, and added: “We are exploring a spin-off of our rapidly-growing Latin American business to further simplify our European platform and create an opportunity for shareholders to participate in the consolidation of those emerging markets.”

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