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Liberty Global drops Multimedia Polska takeover

Liberty Global has withdrawn its €690 million takeover offer for Polish cable operator Multimedia Polska, the company has confirmed.

Liberty said that it was dropping the deal after “failing to agree on revised commercial terms with the sellers that take into account current regulatory and market conditions.”

“We remain confident in the business prospects of our Polish operation and will consider other accretive consolidation opportunities as and when they arise,” said the company in a statement.

Liberty first announced in October 2016 that its Polish unit, UPC Poland, would acquire Multimedia Polska in an all cash transaction that valued the country’s third-largest cable operator at PLN3 billion.

Mulitmedia Polska said in a separate statement, issued to Reuters, that the two companies had decided to terminate the agreement after not being able to agree “final trade and business arrangements”.

The news comes after lengthy delays to the deal, with Polish regulator UOKiK ruling in October that Liberty’s acquisition of Multimedia Polska could restrict competition in a number of cities across the country.

In a statement issued on Friday, UOKiK said it has discontinued its proceedings as UPC Poland had withdrawn its application seeking consent for the deal. It was due to make a ruling on the case by the end of the month.

UOKiK said that based on its market research, the concentration of the two companies would have limited pay TV competition and access to fixed-line internet in 11 cities in Poland.

While UPC Poland submitted data and explanations to the regulator, UOKiK said that proposed modifications to the deal would not have prevented the “negative effects of the contribution”.

DTVE understands that UOKiK was seeking a remedy that would have required the combined UPC Poland and Multimedia Polska to reduce its dominant position in markets where it would have been strongest – a sticking point that ultimately caused the deal to be withdrawn.

The news comes less than a week after Bloomberg reported that Liberty Global is in early-stage discussions with Swiss service provider Sunrise about combining their businesses in Switzerland.

Late last year, Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries spoke at the UBS Annual Global Media and Communications conference, where he said that Liberty would be a “buyer or a seller” in markets where it lacked scale.

“National scale is what matters in Europe,” said Fries. “In the connectivity business it is about national scale and we are driving towards that.”

In February, Vodafone confirmed that it was in early stage discussions with Liberty Global about potentially acquiring parts of its European operations.

Meanwhile, T-Mobile Austria also agreed to buy Liberty Global-owned cable operator UPC Austria for an enterprise value of €1.9 billion in December.