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Vodafone, Liberty Global in asset-swap talks

Vodafone Group has confirmed that it is in early-stage discussions with Liberty Global over an exchange of assets. It made the comment in a Statement to the London Stock Exchange in response to recent media speculation regarding a potential transaction.

“There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor is there certainty with respect to which assets will ultimately be involved,” the company said.

Vodafone is not in discussions with Liberty Global concerning a combination of the two companies,” it said.

Last month, Liberty Global’s chairman John Malone boosted the chances of a tie-up with Vodafone in Western Europe, saying it would be a “great fit”.

“We’ve looked at that from our side and there would be very substantial synergies if we could find a way to work together or combine the companies,” he told Bloomberg.

Malone said he was of the view that a deal between the two companies could create “enormous shareholder value if we could work it out”. Vodafone’s market cap is $93 billion, or twice that of Liberty’s not least because it carries far less debt than the cabler.

UK cable MSO Virgin Media, acquired by Liberty Global in February 2013 for $23.3 billion, is a prime target for Vodafone as it attempts to develop a quad-play offering better to compete with BT and Sky.

The company has expressed its ambitions in the pay-TV market and is planning to launch an IP-delivered entertainment service in the fourth quarter of 2015.

Any deal involving Virgin Media would follow Vodafone’s earlier cable MSO acquisitions, buying Kabel Deutschland in June 2013 for €7.7 billion, and Spanish cabler ONO in mid-March 2014 for €7.2 billion.

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