Liberty Global and Telefónica to merge UK operations

Thursday, May 7th, 2020 
Liberty Global logo

Liberty Global and Telefónica to merge their U.K. operations creating the leading fixed-mobile provider in the country

  • 50-50 joint venture brings together Virgin Media, the U.K.’s fastest broadband network, and O2, the country’s largest mobile platform
  • Combination creates a stronger fixed and mobile competitor in the U.K. market, supporting the expansion of Virgin Media’s giga-ready network and O2’s 5G mobile deployment for the benefit of consumers, businesses and the public sector
  • Fully converged platform will put customers first and have the scale to innovate in the changing digital landscape, investing £10 billion in the U.K. over the next five years
  • Joint venture expected to deliver substantial synergies valued at £6.2 billion on a net present value basis after integration costs, and equivalent to cost, capex and revenue benefits of £540 million on an annual basis by the fifth full year post-closing
  • Attractive valuation for both businesses, with O2 valued at £12.7 billion and Virgin Media valued at £18.7 billion, both on a total enterprise value basis. O2 to be transferred into the joint venture on a debt-free basis, while Virgin Media to be contributed with £11.3 billion of net debt and debt-like items
  • Both parties expect to receive net cash proceeds at closing following a series of recapitalizations that will generate £5.7 billion in proceeds for Telefonica and £1.4 billion for Liberty Global (after an equalization payment to Telefonica of £2.5 billon
  • Joint venture will target ongoing net leverage of 4.0-5.0x, with proceeds from any future free cash flow generation and financing to be distributed equally between Telefonica and Liberty Global
  • The transaction is expected to close around the middle of 2021 and is subject to regulatory approvals, consummation of the recapitalizations, and other customary closing conditions

DENVER, Colorado and MADRID, Spain — Telefónica Chief Executive Officer, Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, said, “Combining O2’s number one mobile business with Virgin Media’s superfast broadband network and entertainment services will be a game-changer in the U.K., at a time when demand for connectivity has never been greater or more critical. We are creating a strong competitor with significant scale and financial strength to invest in UK digital infrastructure and give millions of consumer, business and public sector customers more choice and value. This is a proud and exciting moment for our organisations, as we create a leading integrated communications provider in the U.K.”

Mike Fries, Chief Executive Officer of Liberty Global, said, “We couldn’t be more excited about this combination. Virgin Media has redefined broadband and entertainment in the U.K. with lightning fast speeds and the most innovative video platform. And O2 is widely recognized as the most reliable and admired mobile operator in the U.K., always putting the customer first. With Virgin Media and O2 together, the future of convergence is here today. We’ve seen the benefit of FMC first-hand in Belgium and the Netherlands. When the power of 5G meets 1 gig broadband, U.K. consumers and businesses will never look back. We’re committed to this market and are right behind the Government’s digital and connectivity goals.”

Strategic Combination

Liberty Global plc (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK) and Telefonica SA (Madrid stock exchange: TEF) today announced an agreement to merge their operating businesses in the U.K. to form a 50:50 joint venture (the “JV”). The combination of Virgin Media and O2 will create a nationwide integrated communications provider with over 46 million video, broadband and mobile subscribers and £11 billion of revenue.

By combining Virgin Media’s market-leading v6 video service and giga-ready broadband network, together with O2’s best-in-class, 5G ready mobile propositions, U.K. consumers will enjoy the highest-quality customer experience possible, with superior connectivity and entertainment both inside and outside the home. As a fully converged provider, the JV will provide more competition in the marketplace and choice for consumers.

In addition, the JV will become a leading challenger in the B2B space as the combination will accelerate the adoption of converged fixed-mobile services to Virgin Media’s and O2’s existing business customers and offer new services using both companies’ digital skills, networks and product portfolios, such as cloud, big data, Internet of Things and cybersecurity services. This will ensure sustainable competition in the small, medium and large business segments across the U.K., which will benefit the overall British economy.

Links: Liberty Global; Telefónica