Here in the UK we have just closed the football transfer window. This is an artificial period of time in which all buying and selling of players has to take place. The idea is to remove the destabilisation of players coming and going throughout the season. Now we just have the destabilisation of the deadline driving those desperate to close deals to higher and higher prices.
And this is no socialistic system like the American draft (I know, strange but true), where the best new players are offered to last season’s least successful clubs. No, our system ensures the rich get the best players then win more and become richer still, leaving the poorer clubs further and further behind.
Well, something of a transfer window is about to open for the fixed network market in Europe. This means good players could achieve great prices and mediocre players could get far more than their performance would normally merit.
Corporate financiers and astute owners are already lifting their businesses skirts in the hope of attracting the eye of Vodafone. The UK MNO is selling up its 45 per cent of Verizon Wireless in the US for a cool $130 billion. A healthy chunk of that seems destined to fund Voda’s stated ambition of going deeper in the European fixed line business; it has already demonstrated its ambition with the $9 billion+ buy of Kabel Deutschland.
So, cue a beauty parade of all European fixed line assets. No one gets up earlier than Liberty’s John Malone when it comes to stirring the pot – and fixing the recipe to his taste. Before anyone even asked him the question, he answered that he was very happy with Liberty the way it was, but…. if someone made an offer not to be refused…. etc.
So, Voda to buy Liberty, with Virgin and all? Maybe so, but, anyway, you can be sure that Liberty will play along long enough to ensure its putative new rival will have to pay maximum price for any assets it does buy.
Meantime, it will be rumour and counter rumour as networks in Spain, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Portugal and more come under the spotlight and then, maybe, the hammer. Here’s one to be going on with: Voda must now regret not getting in to the ISP business seriously (it kept kind of getting in, then getting out again in several territories), and BT, of course, regrets its own American misadventures meant selling off its mobile company for a song. BT is now the UK’s biggest ISP, but has no mobile and no international reach to speak of. If you want to expand in Europe, why not start on your own doorstep.