Vodafone has acquired Liberty Global’s cable networks spanning Germany and eastern Europe in a deal valued at €18.4bn, its largest single acquisition since acquiring Germany’s Mannesmann in 2000 for a whopping £112bn.
The pair have long been rumoured to be courting as part of wider consolidation efforts in European telecoms and today’s deal will hand Liberty a war chest of €10.6bn in cash with which to beef up its remaining markets in the UK and Switzerland.
Liberty chief executive Michael T Fries welcomed Vodafone’s expansion in Germany to provide greater competition for Deutsche Telekom, which operates with a near monopoly in the country, saying: ‘Germany is screaming for a challenger which it doesn’t have today’.
Deutsche Telekom and German broadcasters are likely to mount a vociferous rearguard effort to derail the takeover however, which also faces a regulatory test as authorities gauge the market impact of any such move.
For his part, Fries remains convinced that the merger will sail through, securing clearance by mid-2019.
Vodafone’s expansion sights stretch far beyond Europe however, with the telecoms giant pledging to bring 4G services to the Moon in an apparent publicity stunt.