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was liegt näher als Primacom als Finanzvehikel für die neue UPC Germany (10 millionen Anschlüße)zu benutzen.

``Liberty will inject those assets into UPC -- it would make perfect sense,`` said one analyst who declined to be named. ``They have to do something with them (the German cable assets). In the long run they belong with UPC.``

Friday February 23 5:38 PM ET
Liberty Media Seeks European Cable Dominance
By Jana Sanchez and James Mackenzie
AMSTERDAM/FRANKFURT (Reuters) - U.S. cable pioneer John Malone tightened his grip on Europe on Friday as his Liberty Media Group (NYSE:LMGa - news) unveiled two deals which give him control over a big slice of Europe`s cable TV networks.
Liberty Chairman Malone, who has also become a strategic partner in Rupert Murdoch`s global satellite TV ambitions, will now be in a position to determine how cable TV, Internet and voice telephony are going to be piped to tens of millions of European homes.
The deals add luster to Malone`s ever-growing media empire. Englewood, Co.-based Liberty, a wholly-owned unit of AT&T Corp., has amassed interests in some 50 media and technology businesses that include about 100 cable channels.
A consortium led by Liberty will take control of six of nine German regional cable TV companies by spending five billion euros to buy majority stakes from Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE), which was long expected to exit cable TV.
At the same time Liberty upped its interest in Europe`s biggest cable network operator UPC (UPEC.AS), through a complex deal involving UPC`s parent (UGC) (NasdaqNM:UCOMA - news) which gives Malone 81 percent of UGC voting rights.
Analysts said the German cable networks could eventually be folded into UPC, which Malone`s Liberty would now control.
Together these networks have access to well over 20 million homes, of which 10 million in Germany are accessed by Liberty and another 11 million by UPC which is active in 14 other countries such as the Netherlands, Austria and France.
``We think that these are important steps in creating another large asset group for Liberty,`` Liberty President and Chief Executive Robert Bennett said in a conference call.
Liberty Media said it plans to invest up to $1.4 billion in cash in UGC, by buying up to 100,000 shares of preferred stock from UGC, which are convertible into about 54.1 million common shares of UGC. The pact represents an amendment to a June 25, 2000 agreement between the two companies.
Liberty Likely To Lead Consolidation
Liberty is expected to integrate its new German assets with those of UPC.
``Liberty will inject those assets into UPC -- it would make perfect sense,`` said one analyst who declined to be named. ``They have to do something with them (the German cable assets). In the long run they belong with UPC.``
Liberty also owns a 25 percent stake in Britain`s second largest cable operator, Telewest.
To buy the German cable networks, Liberty put together a consortium with UK private equity firm Klesch & Co. to buy the six networks.
``Our goal is to have robust well-financed teams in the field, focusing on each market and becoming the consolidator and upgrader of each market,`` Malone told analysts on the conference call.
This is a blow in the face of Britain`s largest cable operator NTL, which already had a relationship with Klesch and which was regarded as one of a few rivals to UPC aiming for a pan-European footprint.
NTL (NYSE:NLI - news) (NTLI.ED), seen as the ultimate recipient of that Telewest stake, is short of both cash and paper to expand, and has seen its European expansion plans dashed by Liberty`s tie up with Klesch. On Friday NTL`s shares traded on the EASDAQ shed 9.52 percent to $28.50.
``I wouldn`t like to be sitting in NTL`s offices, they thought Klesch was talking to someone but I don`t think that they had any idea such a massive consolidation play was about to unfold,`` a banker said.
Germany The Key
If the Deutsche Telekom deal is completed, it would give Liberty and its partners access to more than 10 million German homes which are mostly analog. It will require billions of euros of investment to upgrade them to digital services.
The deal is expected to close mid-year. Deutsche Telekom was required to sell the assets by regulators and is keen to reduce its 60 billion euro debt burden.
Whether the sale would bring up antitrust issues was unclear.
Sources within the European Commission (news - web sites) told Reuters that the Commission is unlikely to challenge the deal, as the entire purchase is within Germany.
``This is a national issue, not a European issue,`` the source said.
Liberty`s Bennett said the deal will be paid for by monetizing stakes in other assets, and without issuing new stock or parent-company debt.
Credit rating agency Standard & Poor`s on Friday placed the ratings of Liberty Media Corp. on CreditWatch with negative implications, saying that it was concerned by the shift in Liberty`s portfolio mix to a more highly levered asset and questions surrounding long term strategic plans.
Liberty Tightens Its Hold On Upc
UPC, already Europe`s largest cable company with more than seven million customers and with another four million homes connected without paying customers, is key to Malone`s European consolidation strategy, analysts said.
If no other UPC shareholders take up the rights issue, Kohnstamm said, UGC`s stake in UPC would increase from its current 51 percent to about 60 percent.
After the completion of the complex deal between UGC and Liberty, Liberty will have a 43 percent economic and a 81 percent voting stake in UGC, according to a statement issued by Liberty and UGC, effectively giving Liberty control of UPC.
Other shareholders could take up the rights offering, meaning UPC could raise up to 1.5 billion euros. Fund managers and analysts said, however, that heavy takeup by non-UGC/Liberty shareholders was unlikely.
UPC shareholders liked the deal, sending the shares as high as 10.55 euros in early trade, up almost nine percent. At 1545 GMT the shares were trading at 10.20 euros, up 5.45 percent.
UPC`s share price and public image in the Netherlands have been under assault as worries persist over its ability to raise enough money needed to fund its aggressive roll-out of digital services.
``This strengthens UPC`s footprint, and should give it a kick in the bond and equity markets as its parent is now a major player in the German market,`` a banker said.
aus der Diskussion: Primacom Thread 91
Autor (Datum des Eintrages): kabelmedia  (25.02.01 12:34:16)
Beitrag: 72 von 166 (ID:2978057)
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