In an interview with Bloomberg Television this week, the billionaire head of Liberty Global said he would not be challenging the $10 billion bid by mobile giant Vodafone for Germany’s largest cable operator.
“Unfortunately the Vodafone guys have preempted us in trying to consolidate the rest of Germany,” Malone said in a phone interview. “We wish Vodafone good luck. We’re hoping they’ll be a good fellow traveler in the cable business.”
Malone had been circling Kabel Deutschland with an eye to merging the group with its own German cable group, Unitymedia Kabel BW, the country’s No. 2 operator. Instead, Malone said Liberty Global will look to southern Europe for expansion opportunities, as soon as the economy in the region starts improving.
There is little room left to grow for Liberty in the more robust northern European economies. The company already operates in 12 European territories, most recently adding the U.K. with a $16 billion takeover of pay-TV group Virgin Media earlier this year.
“We’re getting to the point where in northern Europe, we’re pretty much as far as we can go,” Malone said. “If southern Europe sort of hits the bottom, as it were, there are things we can do further south in scale.”
Vodafone is expected to complete its takeover of Kabel Deutschland after German cable giant has its annual shareholder meeting in October. The deal still has to be approved by German antitrust authorities. As Vodafone currently has no cable assets in Germany, approval of the deal is expected to face fewer obstacles than a Liberty acquisition would have.