Liberty Global's Malone says valuations thwarted Vodafone deal

James Pearce
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Liberty Global owner John Malone told the FT he'd be interested in a tie-up with Vodafone and ITV, but has yet to make the valuations work

Liberty Global John Malone has poured water on the idea of his company merging with Vodafone, blaming differences over valuations.

Malone, who’s telco owns or part-owns Virgin Media in the UK, Cable and Wireless Communications, and Telenet, told the Financial Times that he would still be interested in a potential tie-up with Vodafone or UK TV channel ITV.

Liberty Global and Vodafone already have a joint operation in the Netherlands, but have also held discussions about possible deals. Talks eventually broke down, with Malone saying Liberty “just couldn’t quite get there on valuation”.

The possible tie-up between Europe’s largest cable operator, and the world’s second biggest mobile operator, has been speculated upon for a number of years.

Malone told the FT: “The door is always open and the telephone number is published. Vittorio (Colao, Vodafone's group CEO) is a fine fellow and they're a great company but sometimes it's difficult where you see the synergy.”

Liberty already owns a 9.9% share in ITV, having bought a 6.4% stake in 2014 that it increased the following year.

Malone also said he’d be interested in increasing his stake, should the opportunity arise, but said current valuations for the broadcaster does not make “economic sense”.

“ITV has effectively been in play for a couple of years,” added Malone. “But they trade at a pretty full valuation today and there are uncertainties going forward. How will they be affected by over-the-top streaming?”