Liberty gets bid for UPC Poland, goes ahead with Costa Rica

Liberty gets bid for UPC Poland, goes ahead with $500m Costa Rica buy

03 August 2021 | Alan Burkitt-Gray

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French group Iliad, which majority owner Xavier Niel wants to take private, has offered to buy broadband operator UPC Poland from Liberty Global for €1.9 billion.

At the same time Liberty Latin America, a sister company of Liberty Global, is set to buy Telefónica Costa Rica for US$500 million following presidential approval.

In Poland, Iliad already owns Play, a mobile operator, so if Liberty Global accepted Niel’s indicative bid, the company could become an integrated fixed and mobile business.

The move comes just days after Niel told Iliad shareholders that he is offering €182 a share to buy the 29% of the group he does not own.

Iliad, which operates in France under the Free brand, last year bought Polish operator for Play €3.5 billion, and also owns Irish fixed and mobile operator Eir and Iliad Italia, a mobile operator.

Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud told investors following the UPC Poland indicative bid: “In line with our ambition to become a true convergent player in Poland, we’re currently looking at different options on our broadband activity.”

UPC is a brand that Liberty Global operates in a number of eastern European countries. The group also owns Virgin Media in Ireland and Sunrise UPC in Switzerland and it has significant stakes in Virgin Media-O2 in the UK, VodafoneZiggo in The Netherlands and Telenet in Belgium.

Reynaud made it clear in his call with investors that an alternative strategy in Poland would be to set up Iliad’s own fibre broadband company.

Meanwhile Carlos Alvarado Quesada, president of Costa Rica, has approved Liberty Latin America’s bid for Telefónica’s Movistar operations in the country. Liberty Latin America plans to merge the business with its 80% subsidiary, Cabletica.

Costa Rica’s Superintendent of Telecommunications (Sutel) also determined there was no evidence the transaction would produce any anti-competitive effects and approved the transaction without conditions.

The companies said they intend to close the transaction shortly.