Liberty Global CEO Explains Increase in ITV Stake

Mike Fries

"Our view of that asset remains positive," says Mike Fries, adding the international cable operator has no plans to do "anything further."

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries said Wednesday that John Malone's international cable operator sees its stake in U.K. TV giant ITV as a "case study" for its content strategy.

Speaking on the company's second-quarter earnings conference call, he reemphasized that Liberty Global had "no intention" to fully acquire ITV or do "anything further" after recently raising its stake from 6.4 percent to 9.9 percent.

Fries called the increase "for the most part an opportunistic and financially driven transaction," saying Liberty Global structured it in a way that let it boost its stake and "in fact take money off the table." The company used the increase in value of its stake to grow it.

Fries said Liberty Global was looking to "effectively and efficiently" fund its content operations and investments. "The ITV investment is a case study for that, where we have now no money in this interest and believe that we’re in a great position to watch how the U.K. market evolves." He added: "Our view of that asset remains positive."

Meanwhile, at another Malone company, Liberty Media, CEO Greg Maffei said Wednesday that Liberty Broadband would like to see cable operator Charter, in which it owns a stake, use Starz, which Liberty previously spun off, as the house brand or the "more friendly brand." He said other pay TV companies would hopefully also think about Starz that way. Starz could "do more with cable [operators] and particularly Charter," Maffei said.

He also called French telecom giant Altice, which looked at Time Warner Cable before Charter agreed to buy it and which recently struck a deal to buy small U.S. cable operator Suddenlink, a "fearsome competitor."

Liberty Media's second-quarter earnings rose to $61 million from $50 million in the year-ago period as smaller tax expenses offset higher operating costs. The latest quarter included a $108 million legal settlement at satellite radio firm SiriusXM. Liberty's quarterly revenue rose 5.3 percent to $1.22 billion.