Liberty Global raises stake in Telenet


BRUSSELS -- Cable giant Liberty Global said Thursday that it has spent €466.7 million ($626.6 million) raising its stake in Belgian cable operator Telenet from 31.3% to 49.7%.

Liberty said it exercised options to purchase 18.7 million shares at €25 ($33.5) apiece from existing shareholders before they expired. "It was a logical next step for us to exercise these options given their expiration dates and terms," Liberty Global president and CEO Mike Fries said.

Telenet, the largest broadband cable service provider in Belgium, focuses on offering cable TV, high-speed Internet and telephone services to customers, mainly in the Flemish part of Belgium. Liberty Global -- controlled by U.S. cable mogul John Malone -- is the world's leading cable provider, serving about 16 million customers in 17 countries.

This year, Telenet posted its first net annual profit, €8.5 million ($11.2 million) on revenue of €813.5 million ($1.1 billion) in 2006. Based in the town of Mechelen, north of Brussels, Telenet employs 1,600 people and provides cable TV, Internet and telephone services to some 2.6 million customers.

It provides its cable services through networks of 16 local municipal cable operators and rolled out a digital television service in 2005, challenging Belgium's dominant telephone company Belgacom. Telenet, which floated on the Euronext Brussels stock market in October 2005, has a total market capitalization valued at about €2.6 billion ($3.5 billion).

Last month, Telenet lost out in a bidding battle as rival VOO paid €475 million ($634 million) for eight cable operators in Wallonia, in Belgium's French-speaking south.