Liberty Global Sells Austrian Network to T-Mobile for $2.25 Billion

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Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries

Liberty's UPC Austria cable network serves some 650,000 customers in the country.

Liberty Global has reached a deal to sell its Austrian cable network UPC Austria to carrier T-Mobile Austria for $2.25 billion (€1.9 billion), including debt.

The deal, which is not expected to close until the second half of 2018, will hand T-Mobile UPC's customer base of some 654,000 subscribers, including more than half a million who receive broadband internet via the company. The sale is still subject to regulatory approval. With the deal, T-Mobile parent company Deutsche Telekom is hoping to challenge the dominance of local incumbent Telekom Austria, which has around 1.5 million fixed-line broadband subscribers in the country. The deal follows moves by Deutsche Telekom to expand its fixed-line business in the Netherlands and a signed letter of intent to do the same in Poland. It also comes in the wake of its failed attempt earlier this year to merge T-Mobile operations in the U.S. with competing mobile carrier Sprint.

Liberty Global, which after years of buying up European cable assets is now shifting to sell mode, said proceeds from the Austrian deal will be used to reduce debt of the remaining UPC group, which is focused on Eastern Europe and Switzerland, as well as to finance Liberty’s share buybacks.

Even following the Austrian deal, Liberty remains a European cable giant, with interests in operations across the continent, including Virgin Media in the U.K., Unitymedia in Germany and Vodafone joint venture VodafoneZiggo in the Netherlands. Liberty Global also holds a 9.9 percent stake in leading British free-to-air network ITV.