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Vodafone: Just assets swap, no merger

Vodafone said yesterday it was in talks with Europe’s largest cable operator Liberty Global about an exchange of assets but was not discussing a full-blown merger.

Vodafone employs over 1,600 people here, including at its head office in Sandyford, Co Dublin and in Cork.

“Vodafone is not in discussions with Liberty Global concerning a combination of the two companies,” the company said in a statement responding to media speculation. Vodafone’s shares were down at one stage yesterday at 243.8p (219.38c) following the statement.

The stock is still trading up 7% since May 19 when renewed speculation about a combination began, after John Malone, the US ‘King of Cable’ and chairman of Liberty, said in an interview that the two companies would make a “great fit”, as fixed and mobile telecom markets converge.

Liberty Global, which has operations in 12 European countries including Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, has a market capitalisation of $46bn (€41.46bn, while Vodafone’s is £66bn (€90.57bn). Vodafone did not say yesterday which businesses were being discussed.

“There is no certainty any transaction will be agreed, nor is there certainty with respect to which assets will ultimately be involved,” the company said in its statement.

Meanwhile, Vodafone in the UK is facing the rapid convergence of fixed-line and mobile markets following broadband giant BT’s $19bn deal to buy EE, the country’s biggest mobile network, with the avowed aim of building “a single, seamless converged platform.”