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Liberty Global, Inc. (LBTYK)

- NASDAQ
  • Fri, Jul. 31, 11:34 AM
    • Liberty Global (LBTYA +0.7%) has boosted its stake in Britain's biggest free-to-air broadcaster, buying 138.7M shares of ITV (OTCPK:ITVPY +3.7%) to increase its ownership to 9.9%.
    • Liberty assures regulators it doesn't have plans to take over ITV. Last year, though, when it bought 6.4% of the company, it said it didn't intend to increase that stake.
    • “Given ITV's operating and stock price performance, we were able to increase our stake to 9.9% with no incremental investment by hedging our existing equity position,” says Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries.
    • ITV shares closed up 3.2% in London trading.
    • Previously: Financial Times: Liberty Global discussing purchase of Ireland's TV3 (Jun. 23 2015)
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  • Thu, Jul. 16, 10:22 AM
    • Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) is up 1.4% as JPMorgan restarts coverage of the stock at an Overweight rating.
    • The firm set a price target of $55; shares closed yesterday at $51.74.
    • Goldman Sachs has added the company to its Conviction Buy list while it bumped down possible asset-swap/merger partner Vodafone.
    • The stock's now up 7.1% over the past five days; YTD it's up just 4.5%.
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  • Wed, Jul. 15, 10:12 AM
    • Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) is 1.1% lower as Goldman Sachs removes it from its Pan-Europe Buy List, downgrading the stock to Neutral from Buy.
    • The firm has a price target of 250 pence, down from 275 pence; shares are trading down 1% in London at 235.55 pence.
    • Amid recent talk about an asset swap with Liberty Global (LBTYA +0.5%), Goldman's Tim Boddy sees the risk/reward profile as "more binary" with Vodafone still set to benefit from "'double' consolidation of both mobile and fixed-mobile operators ... We see attractive operational gearing to this growth recovery given its low margins."
    • M&A is still a very valid option and if management reconsiders its structure, "we believe a number of other potential acquirers could take interest in its remaining assets," he says.
    | 4 Comments
  • Thu, Jul. 9, 5:29 PM
    • There's been little news coming out of secretive Sun Valley -- where media moguls gather at the Allen & Co. conference for "summer camp" and sometimes rearrange billions of dollars with game-changing M&A -- but John Malone today dropped more hints about content consolidation.
    • While media distribution companies have more obvious benefits from consolidation, Malone -- who has hands in Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA), Liberty Media (NASDAQ:LMCA), Liberty Interactive (NASDAQ:QVCA), Charter (NASDAQ:CHTR) and Starz (NASDAQ:STRZA) -- said economies can apply to content too.
    • "It's all about global scale," he told CNBC. "If you want to be a meaningful player in most of any of these media communication businesses, you have to think about it."
    • And while speculation boils about a tie-up between Malone's Starz (STRZA) and Lions Gate (NYSE:LGF) after the two swapped stock, Malone focused on the educational side: "I'm an engineer; what the hell do I know about content? Trying to understand where these ideas come from, how they get created and produced. The development of stories is really going to be important in this random-access world that Reed Hastings (NASDAQ:NFLX) is driving us into."
    • Malone said Netflix changed the game, and that his companies "missed the boat a little bit" on over-the-top offerings.
    • Today: NFLX +2.4%; LGF +0.9%; QVCA +0.3%; CHTR +0.2%.
    | 5 Comments
  • Wed, Jul. 8, 11:58 PM
    • Europe is leading the world in telecoms moving to "quad-play" bundling -- adding wireless to fixed-line telephones, broadband and pay TV -- which should mean a big opportunity for firms to drive margin improvement and build some competitive moats, says Morningstar's Allan Nichols.
    • Both in-country consolidations and convergence mergers are helping build moats, he says -- the latter because it tends to lower churn as people subscribe to more services. And with lower churn, companies can lower subscriber acquisition cost.
    • His favorites in the space: Telefonica (NYSE:TEF), already a leader in triple-play and convergence in Spain and Brazil; Orange (NYSE:ORAN), leading a fiber buildout in France; and Millicom International Cellular (OTCPK:MIICF), with a high organic growth rate but low EV/EBITDA.
    • About 16% of Virgin Media customers were taking four services when it was acquired by Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) in summer 2013, which Nichols thinks was a key factor. Liberty is now offering wireless services as an MVNO in several markets, and has agreed to buy Royal KPN's (OTCPK:KKPNY) wireless business Base.
    • From the wireless direction, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) is also acquiring assets to offer other services, particularly after it bought Cable & Wireless Worldwide in the UK, and later Kabel Deutschland in Germany.
    • Europe would benefit from more cross-border mergers, Nichols says, but they're unlikely due to political constraints, and German cable consolidation is likely to run into regulatory opposition as well.
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  • Wed, Jun. 24, 10:32 AM
    • European cable leader Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) is going to look for growth in the 12 continental markets it already occupies, CEO Michael Fries tells Germany's Handelsblatt, even as the company has acknowledged discussing asset swaps with Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD).
    • "There are not many more markets, like Scandinavia, where we are not active," Fries said. "Spain, Portugal and France do not interest us."
    • The asset swap talks have focused on Liberty's and Vodafone's two key overlapping markets -- the UK and Germany -- but the UK is Vodafone's home and Liberty's largest market, while Germany is Vodafone's biggest sales market.
    • Meanwhile, in Germany, Fries hinted Liberty could swallow up more ground -- "We could certainly look at these," companies like Telecolumbus, Pepcom or Primacom.
    • But he said it didn't need to buy assets to grow in its existing markets. "Our networks reach 50 million households in Europe. However, only 25 million households are customers of ours so far. We can tap the others without great additional costs."
    • Previously: Vodafone, Liberty merger "far more attractive" than asset swap: Nomura (Jun. 23 2015)
    • Previously: Liberty Global, Vodafone see better rules environment for swaps (Jun. 12 2015)
    | 3 Comments
  • Tue, Jun. 23, 1:37 PM
    • Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) is in exclusive talks to buy Ireland's TV3, the Financial Times reports, in a deal valued at more than €100M.
    • Private-equity owners have been looking to sell TV3 for more than a year. The new ownership of TV3 may present a problem for competitor UTV, which launched a high-stakes Irish channel and has been issuing profit warnings. UTV shares slid 9.2% in London.
    • For Liberty Global, it would be another move emphasizing TV content acquisition, following a 6.4% stake it took in ITV last year for £481M.
    | 2 Comments
  • Fri, Jun. 12, 9:19 AM
    • As Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) and Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) talk about swapping assets in Europe, both companies think increased telecom competition has made Europe's regulators more relaxed about consolidation issues.
    • "We see that big telecoms providers are allowed to merge," Manuel Cubero, chief executive of Vodafone's Kabel Deutschland told Reuters in Germany. "We see that politicians support this trend in order to strengthen the ability of companies to invest."
    • Germany is one epicenter of the swaps discussion as the two companies have heavy overlap in the region. It's Vodafone's largest market by sales and likely hopes to get Liberty cable operations there in any swap -- "The more we grow, the better we can compete with Deutsche Telekom (OTCQX:DTEGY) in broadband," says Cubero -- but neither firm may be willing to part with UK business.
    • "The Commission's view of consolidation in the telecom sector in Europe has changed," says Lutz Schueler, head of Liberty's German business Unitymedia.
    • Vodafone's Kabel Deutschland and Liberty's Unitymedia are the No. 1 and No. 2 cable operators in Germany respectively. The country has 29.6M broadband connections, but 23.3M of those are via phone lines and more than half of those controlled by Deutsche Telekom.
    | 2 Comments
  • Tue, Jun. 9, 3:28 PM
    • Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) CEO Michael Fries was quiet about Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) in particular, but did say that mobile services were an important growth driver that the company needed to add to its older fixed-line and Internet services.
    • It's all about getting into the "quad-play" -- being able to offer bundles with TV, Intenet, landline and mobile phone service -- a trend that is helping drive consolidation across the telecom industry.
    • The quad-play bundle is "an important piece of the puzzle," Fries says. “We see in the U.K. and Belgium that customers become more sticky."
    • Liberty probably wouldn't buy a mobile operator in the UK, though, he said, and in most other markets it's more efficient to rent mobile capacity than to buy it.
    • The company has been in asset-swap talks with Vodafone that are likely hinging on European assets, as there are cost synergies to gain even though an outright merger would be difficult to impossible considering their size.
    • The size also means that Liberty's not a takeover target, Fries says: “We are absolutely not vulnerable, in terms of becoming a target against our own will ... We have great organic growth. There are no deals we need to do to be successful.”
    • Previously: Vodafone -2.2% after dampening Liberty merger talk (Jun. 05 2015)
    • Previously: Liberty Global up 4.7%, Vodafone up 4.2% on report of merger talks (Jun. 04 2015)
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  • Fri, Jun. 5, 11:39 AM
    • Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) is off 2.2% today after clarifying that it is talking with Liberty Global (LBTYA +1.3%), but about asset swaps instead of an outright merger.
    • A merger would be difficult considering the size of both companies; it would be one of the largest deals ever on enterprise value. But where would asset swaps happen?
    • Swaps would be best where the overlap is heavy: in Germany, the UK and the Netherlands. But neither company seems likely to give up on the UK, Thao Hua notes. It's Liberty's largest market (and where it draws a chunk of tax benefits), and Vodafone's home. Meanwhile, Germany is Vodafone's biggest sales market.
    • "I do not think Malone wants to exit any of U.K., Germany or Netherlands," Wunderlich's Matthew Harrigan says.
    • Meanwhile, Macquarie's Amy Yong and Guy Peddy point out that "neither Vodafone nor Liberty Global have any track record of integrating wireless and cable TV assets." They had previously described a "more rational" deal for Vodafone would be tying up with Sky (OTCQX:SKYAY) in a content play.
    • They add: "Any deal with Liberty Global would in our view result in a transfer of value from Vodafone to Liberty Global."
    • Previously: Liberty Global up 4.7%, Vodafone up 4.2% on report of merger talk (Jun. 04 2015)
    • Previously: Vodafone-Liberty still good strategy, but not a slam dunk (Jun. 02 2015)
    | 3 Comments
  • Fri, Jun. 5, 3:50 AM
    • Putting an end to the speculation, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) has confirmed it has held talks with Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) to exchange some of their businesses in Europe, but said it was "not in discussions concerning a combination of the two companies."
    • Liberty broke cover on its interest in exploring a potential merger two weeks ago after chairman John Malone pointed to "substantial synergies" should it merge with Vodafone.
    • Previously: Liberty Global up 4.7%, Vodafone up 4.2% on report of merger talk (Jun. 04 2015)
    | 1 Comment
  • Thu, Jun. 4, 5:57 PM
    | 2 Comments
  • Tue, Jun. 2, 1:59 PM
    • Despite merger talk that has lifted Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) more than 7% in the past two weeks -- and a good strategic case -- a tie-up with John Malone's Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) isn't simple or all that close, Thao Hua notes.
    • Breakups might be required, as neither company is easy to swallow whole (Vodafone's EV is about £90B; Liberty's about $90B). The pair could save nearly $30B if Vodafone's European division was split off (from Africa, Middle East and Asia Pacific) and merged with Liberty's in an equity-funded JV.
    • But splitting a business costs as well, and Liberty would probably require operational control to go along. And regulatory issues could be onerous, particularly country by country as different units might combine for market dominance in some areas.
    • Over the same time frame since Malone called a potential combo "a great fit" and reignited speculation, Liberty Global (LBTYA) is up 7.9%.
    • Previously: Vodafone stakeholders: More open to Liberty tie-up (May 28 2015)
    • Previously: Vodafone jumps on Malone comments (May 20 2015)
    • Previously: Liberty's Malone: Combo with Vodafone would be 'great fit' (May 19 2015)
    | 2 Comments
  • Thu, May 28, 2:50 PM
    • The "great fit" that John Malone spoke of last week between Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) and Vodafone (VOD +1.1%) is being echoed by key Vodafone investors -- now that they feel like they're in a stronger position for a more equal deal.
    • Some of the telecom's biggest investors have signaled openness to a deal, with one top shareholder saying "There is a strategic rationale to the combination of the assets."
    • Shares in Vodafone reached a 14-year high this week after the Liberty chairman's comments re-opened the door to merger speculation.
    • Analysts figure a deal between the two could bring gross synergies of £16B.
    • It likely comes down to the power balance: "Liberty are still fractionally more in the driving seat but the deal makes strategic sense for both parties ... For the perfect quad play, they need Vodafone as much as Vodafone needs them," said another top shareholder.
    • Liberty A shares (LBTYA) and C shares (NASDAQ:LBTYK) are down 1.9% today; B shares (NASDAQ:LBTYB) are up 0.5%.
    | 1 Comment
  • Fri, May 22, 10:18 AM
    • Vodafone ADRs (NASDAQ:VOD) are up 1.7% (and shares up 4.4% in London) as Goldman Sachs reports after meeting with company management that Vodafone may sell some assets.
    • With Vodafone moving up this week (ADRs +7.4% since Tuesday) on John Malone's comments that his Liberty Global (LBTYA +2.4%) and Vodafone could be a "great fit," Goldman's Tim Boddy says Vodafone "is willing to consider both acquisitions and disposals where the financial rationale makes sense" and "may be more likely a seller than a buyer of assets."
    • He attributed that to Liberty's preference for tax efficiency vs. Vodafone's preference for dividends -- part of stylistic differences that Malone himself alluded to: "Their philosophy is low leverage, low risk and high cash payout to their shareholders. I prefer to grow equity value."
    | 4 Comments
  • Thu, May 21, 9:17 AM
    • New additions to Goldman's hedge fund hotels - 50 stocks which most frequently appear among the largest ten holdings of hedge funds: AerCap (NYSE:AER), Assured Guaranty (NYSE:AGO), Baker Hughes (NYSE:BHI), Citizens Financial (NYSE:CFG), Colony Capital (NYSE:CLNY), Dresser-Rand (NYSE:DRC), Family Dollar (NYSE:FDO), Hospira (NYSE:HSP), Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX), NXP Semi (NASDAQ:NXPI), Pharmacyclics (NASDAQ:PCYC), Visa (NYSE:V), and Walgreens (NASDAQ:WBA).
    • Since 2001, the basket has outperformed the S&P 500 in 66% of quarters by an average of 73 basis points. YTD, however, it has underperformed by nine bps. Goldman notes the current basket overweights Consumer Discretionary (22%) and underweights Consumer Staples (2%).
    • Looking at the full list, Actavis (NYSE:ACT) leads the way, with 77 funds naming the stock as a top 10 holding. Next up is Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) with 69, then Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) at 42. For the entire list of 50, the average is 26 funds making a stock a top 10 holding.
    • The rest in order: Valeant (NYSE:VRX), Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT), DirecTV (NASDAQ:DTV), Citigroup (NYSE:C), Time Warner (NYSE:TWC), Delta (NYSE:DAL), Cheneire (NYSEMKT:LNG), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYK), AIG, SunEdison (NYSE:SUNE), Air Products (NYSE:APD), Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), GM, BofA (NYSE:BAC), JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Macquarie Infrastructure (NYSE:MIC), American Airlines (NASDAQ:AAL), Charter Communications (NASDAQ:CHTR), Google (GOOG, GOOGL), Ally Financial (NYSE:ALLY), NorthStar Realty (NYSE:NRF), Priceline (NASDAQ:PCLN), eBay (NASDAQ:EBAY), MasterCard (NYSE:MA), Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), Micron (NASDAQ:MU), Williams (NYSE:WMB), Gilead (NASDAQ:GILD), Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.A, BRK.B), Dolar General (NYSE:DG), NorthStar Asset (NYSE:NSAM), Brookdale Senior (NYSE:BKD), DISH Network (NASDAQ:DISH).
    • See also: Goldman updates list of hedge funds most-shorted stocks (May 21)
    | 19 Comments
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Company Description
Liberty Global PLC through its subsidiaries provides video, broadband internet, fixed-line telephony and mobile services across 14 countries.
Sector: Services
Industry: CATV Systems
Country: United States