Big news today in the British pay TV market — US-based Liberty Global is buying cable and internet provider Virgin Media in a stock and cash merger worth $23.3 billion, in a move that could bolster Virgin’s competitive position against Rupert Murdoch’s dominant BSkyB. The price refelects a 24 percent premium over Virgin Media’s closing share price on February 4th.
The new ownership could potentially shake up the British pay TV landscape
The Wall Street Journal reports that the two companies expect to save about $180 million annually from the deal, mostly from procurement of network equipment and IT contracts. Also, as part of the acquisition, Liberty Global will be moving its headquarters from Delaware to the UK, becoming a subsidiary of a new UK holding company. The deal is still subject to things like approval from the companies’ shareholders and regulators, but assuming it goes ahead, the new ownership could potentially shake up the British pay TV landscape. Virgin Media's subscriber count of 4.9 million is less than half of BSkyB's 10.7 million, but financial backing from the larger Liberty could help it fund investment in new technology and be more competitive in crucial content deal negotiations.