LBTYB - Liberty Global plc

NasdaqGS - NasdaqGS Real-time price. Currency in USD
23.98
+0.28 (+1.18%)
At close: 4:00PM EDT
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Previous close23.70
Open23.94
Bid22.88 x 1000
Ask24.66 x 800
Day's range22.38 - 23.98
52-week range15.98 - 58.31
Volume2,423
Avg. volume7,747
Market cap13.797B
Beta (5Y monthly)1.25
PE ratio (TTM)1.30
EPS (TTM)18.39
Earnings dateN/A
Forward dividend & yieldN/A (N/A)
Ex-dividend dateN/A
1y target estN/A
  • Financial Times

    UK and EU watchdogs battle for final say on O2-Virgin deal

    The UK competition watchdog is to ask Brussels for full control over the review of the proposed £31bn merger between Virgin Media and telecoms operator O2, kicking off what is expected to be a fierce battle over which authority gets the ultimate say on the transaction. Brussels will receive a request from the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority, which will argue that the merger solely affects UK consumers. “This important merger will only impact consumers in the UK and since any review will likely conclude after the transition period, it is only right for the CMA to request it back now,” the CMA told the Financial Times, referring to the December 31 deadline.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global Schedules Investor Call for Second Quarter 2020 Results

    Liberty Global plc ("Liberty Global" or the "Company") (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK) today announced plans to release its second quarter 2020 results on Monday, August 3, 2020 after Nasdaq market close. You are invited to participate in its Investor Call, which will begin the following day at 09:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) on Tuesday, August 4, 2020. During the call, management will discuss the Company’s results, and may provide other forward-looking information. Please dial in using the information provided below at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the call.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global to Present at the Bank of America Telecoms and Media Conference

    Liberty Global plc ("Liberty Global") (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK) will be presenting at the Bank of America Telecoms and Media Conference on Tuesday, June 16, 2020 at 10:15 a.m. Eastern Time. Liberty Global may make observations concerning its historical operating performance and outlook. The presentation will be webcast live at www.libertyglobal.com. We intend to archive the webcast under the Investor Relations section of our website for approximately 30 days.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global to Hold Annual General Meeting of Shareholders

    Liberty Global plc ("Liberty Global" or the "Company") (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK) will be holding its 2020 Annual General Meeting of Shareholders ("AGM") on Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at 9:00 a.m. Mountain Time (11:00 a.m. Eastern Time and 4:00 p.m. British Summer Time).

  • Telecom M&A May Get Boost as EU Court Topples U.K. Deal Veto
    Bloomberg

    Telecom M&A May Get Boost as EU Court Topples U.K. Deal Veto

    (Bloomberg) -- CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. won its European Union court fight to overturn the EU’s veto of its bid for rival O2, in a blow to Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager that may make it easier to get deals past merger watchdogs.In a surprise ruling on Thursday, the bloc’s General Court toppled the European Commission’s 2016 merger ban, citing numerous mistakes in the EU regulator’s analysis and saying regulators failed to prove the tie-up would have harmed rivals and customers.While the case is largely symbolic -- the companies have expressed no plans to resurrect the deal -- it’s one of a growing number of challenges to the EU’s merger review process. Regulators wield huge power to extract concessions from companies under threat of blocking a transaction they see as harmful to competition and likely to increase prices for consumers.“This is a resounding victory not only for Hutchison but for the entire European mobile telephony industry,” said Douglas Lahnborg, a lawyer at Orrick. “It’s probably the most important court ruling over the last 15 years in the field of mergers.”Most-FearedIn its decision, the commission rejected Hutchison’s argument that combining its Three unit with Telefonica SA’s U.K. business would help the company invest more in new networks and technology. Instead, it found that it risked increasing prices. The EU’s opposition to merging two mobile networks in the same country also killed other potential deals, effectively pushing many telecoms operators to combine with cable companies or look at cross-border transactions instead of direct national rivals.Vestager, now in her second term as EU commissioner, made her name with tough antitrust enforcement, making the EU one of the most-feared jurisdictions for global deal-making. The court’s criticism may weaken regulators’ ability to demand companies make the changes they want to get a deal through.Hutchison said Thursday’s ruling forces the commission “to fundamentally revisit its approach to merger reviews in this key sector.”‘Brake’ on Deals“The commission’s approach has unfortunately acted as a brake on, or in a number of cases prevented, vital industry consolidation in Europe which would have resulted in significant new investment, innovation and benefits for European consumers and industry,” the company said in a statement.The commission in Brussels said it will carefully study the judgment, which can be appealed.EU merger enforcement has deterred most attempts by European telecoms operators to buy direct rivals, often deals that would have reduced the number of mobile phone providers in one country from four to three. While EU officials repeatedly say there’s no “magic number” for telecoms, they rarely approve so-called 4-3 deals.The ruling is a step “in the right direction” for operators “toward consolidation,” said James Barford, a telecom analyst at Enders Analysis. He said 4-to-3 mergers “seem to have paused” since the 2016 decision “because it appeared the European Commission was taking a different view on them.”Telefonica has moved on in the meantime, a spokeswoman said, referring to a new deal the company recently announced.O2 agreed earlier this month to merge with Liberty Global Plc’s Virgin Media to create the U.K.’s largest phone and internet operator. Virgin Media doesn’t operate its own mobile network in the U.K., and currently rents connectivity from BT Group Plc to offer wireless services to customers. Virgin’s combination with O2 may face an easier ride from regulators because it combines fixed and wireless assets, not two wireless companies.While the U.K. has quit the EU since the deal dispute erupted, the legal challenge highlights how tough antitrust enforcement has swayed telecommunications M&A activity in the region.Virgin Media, O2 Combine to Create New Telecom GiantIn their ruling, the Luxembourg-based EU judges cited the EU’s failure “to show that the effects of the concentration on the network-sharing agreements and on the mobile network infrastructure in the U.K.” would have hindered competition significantly.They also accused the commission of failing to prove “to the requisite legal standard” the effects of the deal on prices and quality of services for consumers. The tribunal found there was not sufficient proof either that the transaction would have significantly impeded competition on the wholesale market.The case is: T-399/16 CK Telecoms UK Investments v Commission.(Updates with lawyer comment from fourth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global Ventures and Zouk Capital Partner in Electric Vehicle Charging Joint Venture Liberty Charge

    Liberty Global Ventures and Zouk Capital today announce a joint venture partnership, Liberty Charge, which will roll out on-street residential electric vehicle charging points in the UK.

  • Bloomberg

    Is BT About to Join the $24 Billion Network Bonanza?

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- For BT Group Plc, two things have long been sacrosanct: the dividend and ownership of its lucrative network. In 2020, it seems, the temple walls are being torn down.Over the past few years, carriers across Europe have looked at the vast sums needed to upgrade their fiber-optic connections and roll out fifth-generation wireless networks, and then at the lofty valuations put on existing network assets. One by one, they’ve decided to raise money from the latter to fund the former. It was a puzzle why Britain’s former national telecoms operator continued to be a holdout.On Thursday, the Financial Times reported that BT is in talks to sell a stake in broadband infrastructure division Openreach in a deal that could value it at 20 billion pounds ($24 billion) — twice BT’s market value. The report came a week after the company scrapped its dividend. If true, it would reveal just how urgently the London-based firm needs cash to fund a multibillion-pound full-fiber upgrade program, honor its pension commitments and preserve its investment-grade credit rating, according to Bloomberg Intelligence analyst Matthew Bloxham. There’s also the 5G network to think about.There would be hurdles to a deal — not least, foreign ownership of Britain’s main fixed network. The FT named Australia’s Macquarie Group Ltd. and an unidentified sovereign wealth fund as the potential investors. What's more, Jansen bought 2 million pounds of shares this week — if a deal really were in the works, it's unlikely that BT's compliance team would have permitted such a trade.BT Chief Executive Officer Philip Jansen has already been making a lot of the right moves to get in shape for the challenges ahead. The abandoned dividend and a new cost-cutting program will bring savings of some 5 billion pounds over the next five years, while the U.K. government has pledged a further 5 billion pounds to accelerate the rollout of fiber optic networks. But it’s hard to look beyond the huge appetite for network infrastructure, and the valuations similar assets have attracted.Just last week, Liberty Global Plc’s British broadband business was valued at 9.3 times Ebitda (a measure of operating performance) in a deal to combine it with Telefonica SA’s local mobile unit. BT as a whole is valued at just 1.3 times earnings on the same basis. The operator might have acted sooner were it not for Chairman Jan du Plessis’s staunch opposition to any divestment. Shortly after announcing Jansen’s appointment as CEO in 2018, du Plessis told the Daily Telegraph that 100% ownership of the division was best for “BT, for Openreach and for our stakeholders.” Just last week, when asked about the possible separation of the unit, Jansen responded, “Not now.”But selling a minority stake in the unit looks like the right move to shore up the company’s balance sheet. The right price would help BT stomach the humble pie brought on by a reversal of strategy, and reassure investors that, yes, even after the network investments, one day, the dividend will return.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    BT Adds U.S. Fiber Supplier to Limit Its Reliance on Huawei Gear

    (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s biggest landline network has brought on a new supplier to help cut its reliance on China’s Huawei Technologies Co. and ramp up construction of a nationwide fiber-optic system.BT Group Plc’s infrastructure unit Openreach signed a long-term contract to bring in U.S. firm Adtran Inc. alongside Huawei and Finland’s Nokia Oyj as a strategic partner. Adding an American component maker will help London-based BT limit the use of China’s Huawei technology in its fiber-optic network and meet national security rules. The parties didn’t disclose financial terms.In January, Britain capped the amount of data that can be carried over Huawei’s full-fiber and 5G equipment at 35%, and gave networks three years to comply. The move dealt to a blow to the Shenzhen-based vendor, but stopped short of U.S. demands for an outright ban.Huawei makes up 44% of the U.K.’s full-fiber market, according to the government. BT said overhauling systems to obey the rules may cost it 500 million pounds ($611 million), though mainly it pointed to the changes it needs to make to wireless towers.“It helps Openreach to be able to execute on their plan and still abide by those requirements,” Jay Wilson, Adtran’s chief revenue officer, said in an interview. The contract could make up a 10th of Adtran sales during the peak of its build, he added. The Huntsville, Alabama-based company also supplies some of BT’s small startup rivals, as well as big U.S. carriers like AT&T Inc. and European peers like Deutsche Telekom AG.Read more: Britain’s Plan to Get Working Again Doesn’t Seem to Be WorkingThe contract comes a week after BT accelerated its planned fiber rollout, pledging to connect 20 million premises by the mid- to late-2020s if conditions allow. It also scrapped dividend payments to help pay for the pledge, and rivals Telefonica SA and Liberty Global Plc announced the same morning that they were merging their U.K. units to create a stronger rival to the former state monopoly.Bloomberg first reported Openreach’s search for a new supplier in November. Peter Bell, the company’s network technologies director, said in a statement that the Adtran deal would help the U.K. “bounce back from the Covid-19 pandemic” with a better broadband network. The U.K. has lagged behind European neighbors in building out glass-based fiber connections, relying instead on lower-bandwidth, copper-transmitted wires.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Billionaire Agnellis Play Hardball with the French

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Renege on a deal with the Agnellis and you can expect to pay for it.Scion John Elkann has refused to renegotiate the Italian family’s $9 billion sale of its reinsurance business after the buyer, French mutual Covea, sought to revise the terms. A deal at a lower price could have made sense for both sides. The mystery is why Elkann saw more advantage in playing hardball, with the risk of the deal failing. Covea walked away on Tuesday.If Covea had been smarter, it wouldn’t have agreed to pay so much for PartnerRe in the first place. The transaction was done in early March when it was clear that the coronavirus was taking hold outside Asia. But Covea wasn’t trying to wriggle off the hook entirely. It has a strategic goal to diversify away from its home market. Buying PartnerRe for less would achieve that.Chiseling a bit off the price might still have left this a fair deal. Analysts at Bank of America Corp. value PartnerRe at $7.2 billion. They reckon the initial sale price was a little shy of what could have been justified, but if you factor in a correction in reinsurance stocks during the Covid-19 crisis then a 20% haircut is warranted.Now consider the strategic value to the Agnellis of having a big pot of cash to deploy in a world where asset values have fallen almost everywhere. On that basis, even a less than fair price might have been worth taking.So why not budge? One possible answer lies in the regulatory risks surrounding the deal. The chances of approval were harder to predict here than would usually be the case. The transaction would have taken Covea into new territory. Insurance industry supervisors would have been mindful of it stretching the purchaser’s management. It’s one thing for PartnerRe’s owners to accept a reduced price, quite another if the lower proceeds aren’t certain to land anyway.Another reason for standing firm lies in the reputational risks of budging. Blinking in M&A carries long-term costs by undermining your credibility the next time you want to do some dealmaking. John Malone, the U.S. cable billionaire, let the sale of his Swiss business collapse last year rather than bow to pressure to cut the price. Perhaps it’s no coincidence that his next big transaction — last week’s combination of his U.K. assets with those of Spain’s Telefonica SA — was struck on favorable terms to his vehicle, Liberty Global Plc.All the same, it’s still a puzzle that Elkann didn’t try harder to save this. The last explanation must be the possibility of financial redress. That wouldn’t come from the reported break fee — at about 2% of the deal, it’s puny. Juicy compensation would require litigation.Exor NV, the Agnellis’ investment vehicle, doesn’t say in its statement whether it will sue. While neither side would relish a court battle, Elkann might calculate that Covea would want legal action even less than the Italian side. A settlement would therefore make sense. The talks may not be over yet.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Hughes is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals. He previously worked for Reuters Breakingviews, as well as the Financial Times and the Independent newspaper.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Liberty Global PLC (LBTYK) (LBTYA) (LBTYB) Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript
    Motley Fool

    Liberty Global PLC (LBTYK) (LBTYA) (LBTYB) Q1 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

    LBTYK, LBTYA, LBTYB earnings call for the period ending March 31, 2020.

  • Liberty Global (LBTYA) Q1 Earnings Surge, User Base Weakens
    Zacks

    Liberty Global (LBTYA) Q1 Earnings Surge, User Base Weakens

    Liberty Global's (LBTYA) first-quarter 2020 results reflect relentless subscriber attrition amid the pandemic woes.

  • Missing From Europe’s Biggest Pandemic M&A Deal: European Banks
    Bloomberg

    Missing From Europe’s Biggest Pandemic M&A Deal: European Banks

    (Bloomberg) -- Europe’s biggest M&A deal since the coronavirus pandemic is missing a notable protagonist: a European bank.Telefonica SA of Spain and Liberty Global Plc worked purely with U.S. financial advisers on the combination of their O2 and Virgin Media businesses, which will create the U.K.’s largest phone and internet operator valued at 31.4 billion pounds ($39 billion) including debt. Telefonica tapped Citigroup Inc., while billionaire John Malone’s Liberty used JPMorgan Chase & Co. and its go-to boutique bank LionTree Advisors LLC.The banking roster highlights Wall Street’s sustained dominance in the market for fees in Europe, where many of the region’s historically strong advisory banks have fallen behind their U.S. rivals after years of restructuring since the 2008 financial crisis.While Telefonica uses a range of advisers, it has regularly worked with European banks in the past. UBS Group AG advised on the attempted sale of its U.K. business to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. in 2015, a deal that was blocked by regulators. The Swiss lender was also one of the arrangers for its aborted initial public offering of O2 the following year, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.Malone ConnectionsCitigroup vaulted 10 spots on the league tables as a result of the Telefonica-Liberty transaction. It now ranks no. 4 on deals targeting European companies this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.The firm’s global investment banking operations are co-led by Spaniard Manolo Falco and it has a historically strong presence in the country, where it was the busiest M&A adviser last year. Citigroup’s deep bench of technology, media and telecoms bankers also helped.Read more: Want a Top M&A Job in London? It Helps to Be Italian or SpanishLionTree, the boutique co-founded by former UBS analyst Aryeh Bourkoff, jumped to no. 13 from no. 29. JPMorgan Chase & Co. has solidified its no. 2 spot in the rankings, just behind Wall Street rival Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which didn’t have a role on the deal.JPMorgan may have benefited from its financing capabilities and its work with Malone last year on his planned $6.4 billion sale of UPC Switzerland to Sunrise Communications AG, which fell apart after shareholder opposition. European investment bank Credit Suisse Group AG missed out on this latest transaction despite also having a role on that Swiss deal as well as Liberty’s original purchase of Virgin Media in 2013.Some other banks may have also been conflicted out of the deal because they’re regular advisers to rival U.K. carriers like Vodafone Group Plc and BT Group Plc.Market ShareThe lack of domestic advisers for a deal involving U.K. and Spanish companies illustrates the uphill battle Europe’s banks face in clawing back back market share from Wall Street.The coronavirus outbreak and the ensuing economic collapse have ended a decades-long bull run in M&A, meaning missed roles on mega transactions will be even more sorely felt. April was the worst month for deals globally since 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The O2-Virgin Media deal announced Thursday is the largest globally since Covid-19 was declared a pandemic in March.Related News: Dealmaking in April Drops to Lowest Point Since 2004A select group of European banks led by BNP Paribas SA has been aggressively lending to the region’s corporates amid the coronavirus pandemic, hoping to parlay that into other business down the road. Still, as the Telefonica-Liberty deal shows, it will be an uphill battle for European advisers to pry the hottest M&A mandates from the Americans.Related News: Top European Lenders Fill Pandemic Void as U.S. Banks Eye HomeFor more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Virgin-O2's $38 Billion Deal Isn't All About the People
    Bloomberg

    Virgin-O2's $38 Billion Deal Isn't All About the People

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- If you listen to the protagonists, Europe’s biggest telecoms deal in a decade is all about the customers. The details of the merger of Virgin Media, the British cable unit of Liberty Global Plc, and O2, Telefonica SA’s U.K. mobile carrier, tell a different story.According to the companies, the 31.4 billion-pound ($39 billion) deal is aimed at creating a giant company that will give consumers the option of buying all of their broadband, television, mobile and fixed-line services from a single supplier. At the moment, only BT Group Plc provides a similar “converged” telecoms package in the U.K. It’s true that the new Virgin-O2 will compete more closely with BT, but the structure of the joint venture suggests a different ambition too. Liberty, which is backed by the cable billionaire John Malone, and Spain’s Telefonica are approaching the deal in much the same way as a private equity firm, by saddling the new entity with debt and paying themselves a special dividend. The companies say the venture will be able to carry debt representing five times its Ebitda (a measure of operating performance), so they plan to add another 6.4 billion pounds of borrowings to the Virgin-O2 business. They will then split the proceeds.Rather than aiming to cut consumer prices, Telefonica appears to be prioritizing its own strained balance sheet — which is understandable enough. Chief Executive Officer Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete Lopez is urgently working to reduce his company’s mountain of debt, and he’s already had to call off a money-spinning initial public offering of O2 once. After the deal with Malone, Telefonica will get 5.7 billion pounds, including a 2.5 billion-pound payment from Liberty.In fairness, O2 will no longer sit on Telefonica’s income statement, and the subsequent reduction in the Spanish parent’s earnings will counterbalance the benefits of any cut to its debt when you look at its leverage ratio (the level of a company’s debt relative to its earnings).Nevertheless, the decision to saddle the new combined entity with a lot of new debt suggests it doesn’t plan to undercut BT aggressively on price. With its borrowings stretched to the upper limit, Virgin-O2 won’t be able to afford to dilute its profitability. Were it planning a serious attack on its rival’s market share, it would probably have left itself more firepower. A proposed 110 million pounds of annual “revenue synergies” — a slightly iffy measure of how many more sales two companies can generate when they join together — would only add 1% of the combined firms’ existing sales.For all of the merger’s potential to cross-sell mobile services to broadband customers and vice-versa, and to save costs through sharing networks, the deal looks more like a clever piece of financial engineering. Indeed, Mark Evans, the O2 CEO, has often played down the appetite for converged telecoms offerings in the U.K. If Virgin can convince O2 customers to merge their mobile-phone accounts with its longer-term broadband and home phone contracts, that would stop people from switching to other providers too regularly. The more predictable revenue stream would allow the new company to sustain its higher levels of debt.There’s nothing inherently wrong with any of this. But let’s not dress it up as something that it isn’t. This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Liberty's Virgin Media and Telefonica's O2 to merge in the UK in $39B deal
    TechCrunch

    Liberty's Virgin Media and Telefonica's O2 to merge in the UK in $39B deal

    The regulators said "NO" when Telefonica tried to combine its O2 operations in the UK with rival carrier, Hutchison-owned Three, back in 2015. Telefonica and Liberty Global today announced a plan to merge the Spanish telco's UK mobile carrier O2 with Virgin Media, a pay-TV and broadband provider in the country owned by Liberty.

  • Bloomberg

    John Malone Proves Market Wrong Again With Virgin Media Deal

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- John Malone has proved the market wrong again. The billionaire “cable cowboy” is merging his U.K. Virgin Media broadband business with Telefonica SA’s British mobile unit, O2, on much better terms for him than investors anticipated.The deal creates a company that offers internet and television services, as well as fixed and mobile telephony. It will be a strong second to BT Group Plc in the U.K. telecoms market, and will be 50% owned by each side. The founding companies reckon that Virgin, owned by Malone’s Liberty Global Plc, is worth some 19 billion pounds ($23 billion). Deduct net debt and Liberty contributes assets worth roughly 7 billion pounds to the combination. O2, debt free, they value at 13 billion pounds.Tot it up and each side starts out with 10 billion pounds of equity value in the new company. Liberty then makes a 2.5 billion-pound payment to Madrid-based Telefonica so both partners get out what they put in. Analysts had expected that this “balancing payment” would be much higher based on their lower valuations for Virgin.The market’s implied valuation of Virgin has long frustrated Liberty. This deal looks like a riposte to that. True, Virgin’s value is flattered by tax credits from past investments, estimated to be worth about 1.5 billion pounds. Some observers will also question the high multiples put on both businesses — 9.3 times 2019 operating income before depreciation and amortization at Virgin, and 7.8 times at O2. Either way, the terms say Virgin is worth more than common wisdom assumed.How so? Is this what happens when big deals are done on Zoom? Perhaps the market simply hadn’t analyzed Virgin in enough detail — it’s a U.K. asset trapped in a U.S. holding company. The terms may also reflect the relative negotiating positions of the two sides. Telefonica arguably had fewer plan Bs than Virgin if it walked away from talks. Pairing O2 with a rival British mobile group would have run into antitrust issues, although an alliance with Comcast Corp.-owned Sky may have been a possibility. The capital markets look shut to an initial public offering of the size of O2 right now.But Telefonica hardly leaves empty handed. The Virgin-O2 combination will immediately take on more debt, allowing the Spanish company to extract 5.7 billion pounds of cash from the merger. Ceding full ownership means it will lose the O2 earnings from its accounts, so the overall impact on its leverage will be negligible. But Telefonica should enjoy a more reliable stream of dividends from the combination.What’s more, the “converged” internet, TV and mobile offering of Virgin-O2 will give it a much stronger investment case. A sale of a stake in an IPO further down the line would really give Telefonica the ability to pay down its debts. The jam in this deal is coming to Malone today, and Telefonica tomorrow.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Hughes is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering deals. He previously worked for Reuters Breakingviews, as well as the Financial Times and the Independent newspaper.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global Reports Q1 2020 Results

    Liberty Global plc today announced its Q1 2020 financial results. Our former operations in Austria, Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic, along with our DTH business (collectively, the "Discontinued Operations") are presented as discontinued operations for the three months ended March 31, 2019. Unless otherwise indicated, the information in this release relates only to our continuing operations.

  • How a Merger of Virgin Media and O2 Will Impact Consumers
    Bloomberg

    How a Merger of Virgin Media and O2 Will Impact Consumers

    (Bloomberg) -- Combining O2, the U.K.’s largest mobile phone operator, with Virgin Media, the nation’s second-largest broadband provider, could reshape the market for consumers as much as the telecommunications industry.A tie-up between the U.K. broadband and mobile units of Liberty Global Plc and Telefonica SA, could be announced as soon as this week, and both companies offer a roster of perks and offers to tempt customers, many of which they’re uniquely positioned to offer -- and with minimal existing crossover.Live StreamingO2 is a pure-play wireless carrier with no TV product of its own, so it bundles services like Amazon Prime Video into new contracts. Conversely, Virgin Media gives its TV subscribers free mobile apps that let them stream live and on-demand channels, but incentives to use them on a Virgin Mobile service -- such as having their data usage being excluded from a customer’s monthly allowance -- don’t exist.There would be ample opportunity for Virgin to offer an on-demand TV streaming mobile product that, if used on an O2 phone, didn’t eat into a customer’s data allowance. It’s a strategy already used by rival EE -- customers of that carrier can choose a service plan that excludes TV services such as the BBC and Netflix Inc. from using up bundled data allowances.Fiber PromotionSwathes of British households don’t currently get their mobile phone from the same provider as their TV or broadband, which is often the best way to get the cheapest deals, so it opens up an opportunity for cost-savings (for consumers) and market growth (for providers).Bloomberg Intelligence estimates that 6.5 million U.K. broadband homes use O2’s mobile services, of which about 3.5 million may fall within Virgin Media’s footprint. “A merger would provide an opportunity to target about 2.2 million homes not already using Virgin Media to switch to the cable operator’s broadband platform,” BI analyst Matthew Bloxham said in a note.5GStill, despite selling some of the fastest broadband widely available in the U.K., Virgin’s mobile product only offers 4G speeds. To get a next-generation 5G connection, customers need to go to one of its competitors. The company said in November it had inked a deal with Vodafone Group Plc to start selling a 5G product, but that’s not expected to arrive until 2021.A merger with O2 could change that. The carrier has already started to roll out 5G phones with unlimited data plans ripe for use with high-definition television and movie streaming, alongside competitors. Having these as incentives to bring a Virgin Media broadband and TV customer in-house from a mobile rival wouldn’t be hard to justify building into a combined package.Live EventsFor more than a decade, O2 has used the concerts and performances held in its London arena and other smaller venues around the U.K. as ways to attract customers. The network gives them pre-sale access to tickets for thousands of shows, which have included sell-out names such as Fleetwood Mac, Lewis Capaldi, and Rod Stewart.Extending such offers to Virgin Media customers could benefit them, as well as any O2-branded venues with seats to fill in post-pandemic Britain, when mass gatherings are likely to be challenging to coordinate. In the past, some performances at the O2 Arena in London have been so popular they’ve been commercially live-streamed to cinemas elsewhere in the country. Such programs could be effectively extended to millions of Virgin Media TV customers in their homes -- an effective way of bolstering the live events industry while maintaining social distancing.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Virgin Media, O2 Deal Risk Points to Rivals More Than Regulators

    (Bloomberg) -- The prospect of Britain’s biggest telecommunications deal in five years is threatening Vodafone Group Plc in its backyard, prompting speculation it could counterattack. A tie-up between Virgin Media and O2, the U.K. broadband and mobile units of Liberty Global Plc and Telefonica SA, could be announced as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter. That leaves Vodafone -- viewed previously as a strong alternative partner for Virgin Media -- looking isolated. Virgin Media is the only serious challenger to former monopoly BT Group Plc in fixed-line infrastructure. So a Virgin deal would be Vodafone’s sole opportunity to seize a place in the landline market and offer customers more lucrative bundles of mobile, broadband and TV at a national scale. Vodafone has already extolled the benefits of being a converged fixed-and-wireless operator in its other markets such as Germany. “The Vodafone management team will have some difficult decisions to make in short order,” said HSBC analysts led by Adam Fox-Rumley in a note. Vodafone and Liberty also have a history of close deal-making. The U.K.-based global wireless operator bought Liberty’s German and eastern European operations for 18.4 billion euros ($19.9 billion) last year. The two have a Dutch joint venture, VodafoneZiggo, that looks almost like a template for the emerging terms of Liberty’s U.K. deal.Liberty also jumped to Vodafone’s wireless network from BT’s to resell its own-brand U.K. mobile services in November.The risk to Vodafone from a Virgin-O2 deal looks so great that some observers are speculating the Liberty-O2 talks are a tactic by Liberty’s deal-savvy Chief Executive Officer Mike Fries to sweeten the terms of the Vodafone deal he may really want.“This story that Virgin Media is in discussions with O2 UK could still just be a ploy to try to flush out a deal with Vodafone and to set up a Dutch auction,” said New Street Research analyst James Ratzer. “In any deal with O2 UK, Vodafone would be the big potential loser here.”Vodafone declined to comment.Regulator RiskVirgin’s cable and fiber connections reach about half of Britain’s homes, making it by far the biggest fixed-connection rival to BT, some way ahead of a flurry of fiber businesses such as CityFibre Ltd. that are vying to become a serious third-placed contender.All the more reason for Telefonica Chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete to make sure a Liberty deal doesn’t slip through his fingers. British and European regulators united to block his last attempt to sell O2 to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s unit Three in 2016, weeks before the U.K. voted to leave the EU.This had a chilling effect on telecom industry consolidation across Europe as regulators took a dim view of linking up networks at the risk of increasing prices.A deal allowing Virgin Media and O2 to leapfrog BT to become the biggest U.K. telecom operator stands a better chance of being approved by regulators, if past interventions are anything to go by.A potential Virgin-O2 tie-up wouldn’t reduce the number of competitors in the U.K. mobile market from four to three. Neither did BT’s 12.5 billion-pound acquisition of wireless unit EE, which was waved through by antitrust officials.What’s more, the coronavirus pandemic is forcing millions of people to rely more on telecommunications, strengthening the argument for allowing suppliers to merge so they can invest more in networks. U.K. or EU?While company revenues would usually require a deal review by the European Union’s merger watchdog, even during the Brexit transition period, the U.K.’s Competition and Markets Authority could ask to take over a probe. Germany has repeatedly failed to win back telecom reviews but Britain’s imminent departure from the bloc may make it hard for the EU to refuse.That would also set up a test for Melanie Dawes, the new chief executive officer of British communications watchdog Ofcom, who started in the role in March and is yet to have such a big deal pass her desk.Legal issues could still complicate a deal as Telefonica has set up a challenge to the U.K.’s pending 5G spectrum auction. That could create uncertainty about O2’s value as it’s unclear how much money Telefonica will have to pay for 5G airwaves and what it would own. Telefonica had previously planned an initial public offering for O2, which it said couldn’t happen until after Britain’s previous spectrum auction.Another potential point of conflict is Virgin Media’s agreement to shift its virtual mobile service to Vodafone’s network next year.New Street analyst Ratzer said there’s probably a break fee for Virgin to exit the deal with Vodafone, but it shouldn’t prove a stumbling block.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global Schedules Investor Call for First Quarter 2020 Results

    Liberty Global plc ("Liberty Global" or the "Company") (NASDAQ: LBTYA, LBTYB and LBTYK) today announced plans to release its first quarter 2020 results on Wednesday, May 6, 2020 after Nasdaq market close. You are invited to participate in its Investor Call, which will begin the following day at 09:00 a.m. (Eastern Time) on Thursday, May 7, 2020. During the call, management will discuss the Company’s results, and may provide other forward-looking information. Please dial in using the information provided below at least 15 minutes prior to the start of the call.

  • Liberty, Telefonica in Talks to Build $30 Billion U.K. Arm
    Bloomberg

    Liberty, Telefonica in Talks to Build $30 Billion U.K. Arm

    (Bloomberg) -- Telefonica SA and John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc have never been closer to finally creating the U.K.’s biggest telecom operator after flirting with various combinations over the years.Racing for a potential announcement as early as this week, talks hinge in part on striking equal control for the merger of O2 and Virgin Media, while structuring a deal that’ll help the Spanish giant pay down its huge debt pile, according to people familiar with the matter, asking not to be identified because the talks are private.In a statement Monday, Telefonica confirmed that talks are ongoing “on a potential integration of their respective telecommunications businesses in the United Kingdom” and there is no guarantee that an agreement can be reached.Liberty Global’s New York A-class shares surged 15% on Friday after Bloomberg revealed the talks, the biggest jump since 2009, and were up 6% in premarket trading Monday to $23.62. Telefonica shares rose 4.2% at 2:41 p.m. Madrid time Monday, while rival BT Group Plc rose 1.1%, rebounding from a drop earlier in the day.Clinching a deal this month amid a collapse in global deal-making would be no small feat. A combination of O2 and Virgin Media could create a business with an estimated enterprise value of about $30 billion, according to analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc., which could make it the largest deal struck since the coronavirus was declared a global pandemic.Telefonica may seek a payment from Liberty Global of between 6.2 billion euros ($6.8 billion) and 8.5 billion euros, an amount which may keep its leverage ratio from climbing from pre-deal levels, Deutsche Bank analysts Keval Khiroya and Robert Grindle said in a note to clients. They see 6 billion pounds ($7.5 billion) of synergies, and value O2 at 11 billion pounds and Virgin Media at 16 billion pounds.Telefonica, currently trading at close to a 25-year-low, is demanding the two companies have equal voting rights in the new venture, one of the people said. Executives and advisers must reconcile that with Telefonica’s need to pay down 38 billion euros of debt, which means it’s unlikely to put cash into the deal, said analysts at New Street Research.Liberty is likely to make a significant cash payment to Telefonica as part of the transaction, two of the people said.Although the talks are advanced, executives on both sides are being cautious following recent strategic upsets, the people said. Telefonica’s plan to sell its U.K. business to CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. was blocked by regulators in May 2016. It then started working on plans for an initial public offering of O2, but they were shelved by Brexit and the subsequent market turmoil. The company never said officially that it was scrapping the IPO plans.Liberty Global declined to comment.New RivalsLiberty Global Chief Executive Officer Mike Fries said in September that buying a U.K. mobile operator would bring hundreds of millions of dollars in synergies. Extra cash would flow from combining infrastructure and back-office savings, and eliminating the need to pay for access to networks they don’t own.Previous joint ventures have cut costs such as Liberty Global’s 2016 deal with Vodafone Group Plc in the Netherlands. As of February that partnership was yielding 85% of a planned 210 million euros in synergies, a year ahead of schedule.The combined entities would take 34% of Britain’s telecom service revenues between them, eclipsing the current No. 1 operator BT Group Plc, according to research from Goldman Sachs published Friday. If successful, the new venture would be BT’s only rival that owns both fixed-line and mobile services.BT’s leading position in the U.K. communications market would be threatened by a merger of rivals O2 and Virgin Media, we believe. A second, scaled fixed-mobile carrier would pressure BT’s consumer-broadband and enterprise-mobile market share, and boost investment in alternative full-fiber infrastructure to rival Openreach’s own expansion plans.\-- Matthew Bloxham, BI telecom analystVodafone and Liberty Global’s close relationship -- solidified by their Dutch joint venture -- has previously fueled speculation that the two groups could do a U.K. deal. Vodafone recently won BT’s contract to wholesale mobile services to Liberty’s U.K. customers, a deal which would have to be re-examined if Virgin merged with O2.“Vodafone would be the big potential loser” from a Virgin-O2 match-up, said New Street analyst James Ratzer in a note Friday, adding they would miss out on the synergies and also lose wholesale payments from Virgin.Musical ChairsMatchmaking the U.K.’s fixed and mobile operators has been a favorite game of bankers and executives for years as Britain lagged neighbors in a global telecommunication trend of “convergence,” which has seen companies meld cable and radio networks together. A wave of investors are being drawn to the infrastructure-like returns of fiber optics. Startups are also building U.K. fiber and consolidating.Executives at the leading U.K. telecom companies have regularly spoken about potential combinations, with advisers pitching Virgin Media as a partner to both Vodafone and Comcast Corp.’s Sky unit, in addition to Telefonica, people familiar with the talks said.Liberty’s investors have been waiting to learn what the company plans to do with what remains of $11 billion in proceeds from selling its Germany and eastern European operations. In November, Liberty’s Chief Financial Officer Charlie Bracken said the company is looking at the merits of listing local units to unlock more value, as the company’s stock price has wilted.While Telefonica has never publicly said it wanted to move into the U.K.’s fixed market, it has always advocated for consolidation in its markets, and internally the company has been open to considering options for the U.K. O2 was born as a joint venture controlled by BT called ‘Cellnet’, before it was bought by Telefonica in 2006 for 18 billion pounds. BT looked at buying O2 in 2014 but opted instead to buy EE, the joint venture built by Deutsche Telekom AG and Orange SA.For Telefonica, a U.K. merger would advance a sweeping strategy change announced in November. It’s focusing on four core markets of Spain, Brazil, the U.K. and Germany and considering all options for the rest of its Latin American units. It also announced the creation of new tech and infrastructure units. It’s looking for ways to accelerate growth in those core markets and the latter new divisions through partnerships and deals.(Updates share prices in fourth paragraph, adds analyst comment in sixth paragraph, detail on O2 history in ninth paragraph.)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Bloomberg

    Billionaire Malone Finds Love Match for Virgin Media

    (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Investment bankers will have to find something new to gossip about. The perpetual “Will they? Won’t they?” of European telecommunications dealmaking is finally happening.Billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc has found a potential match for its U.K. broadband unit Virgin Media and is negotiating to merge it with Telefonica SA’s local wireless provider O2, Bloomberg News reported on Friday. The combined company would become only the second provider in the U.K. offering both fixed-line and mobile service next to former national carrier BT Group Plc.The logic of the deal is sound from a corporate perspective. The ability to offer broadband and wireless service in one offering lets operators not only cross-sell products more effectively, it also makes customers less likely to jump to a competitor. It’s harder to change your mobile, broadband and television provider all at once than it is just one of those services. If managed effectively, the combination could also reduce costs. The U.S. and most of Western Europe already have several so-called converged operators. That the U.K. has just one makes it all but unique. And it fits Liberty’s strategy of finding a partner for its cable operations in Europe: It’s already done so in Germany, the Netherlands and Eastern Europe, though efforts in Switzerland have been stymied.Virgin Media has long been the favorite deal-target gossip topic of European telecom bankers, with O2 and Britain’s Vodafone Group Plc considered the likely suitors. Liberty Chief Executive Officer Mike Fries has done little to downplay the speculation, saying as recently as February that it was “continuing to explore strategic options in the market.”  The proposed deal, which could be announced as soon as next week, would leave Vodafone out in the cold —  but the company has restricted capacity for takeovers right now anyway, having completed the acquisition of Liberty’s cable operations in Germany and Eastern Europe for 19 billion euros ($21 billion) last year. Telefonica, having already set O2 up as a standalone unit in anticipation of an initial public offering that was ultimately called off, is better prepared for a merger.The model for the combination might nonetheless be another Vodafone-Liberty transaction. The two firms combined their fixed and wireless businesses in the Netherlands back in 2016 to form VodafoneZiggo Group BV. They targeted synergies of 210 million euros, of which 85% have so far been realized, and which represented a healthy 8.6% of 2016 revenue. If even half that proportion of savings are feasible in merging O2 and Virgin Media, then it would represent a lot of value creation, based on the two firms’ combined 2019 revenue of $14 billion.That’s surely an attractive proposition for Telefonica, whose chief executive officer Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete started a drastic refashioning of the Spanish firm last year following a steep stock decline. That might also mean that he needs the deal more. Nonetheless, Liberty may have to put some money into the transaction if it’s to be a joint venture. While Virgin Media is more profitable on an operating basis, it has higher capital expenditures. Goldman Sachs analysts give O2 an enterprise value of 12.4 billion pounds ($15.5 billion) and Virgin a valuation of 12.3 billion pounds on the same basis.The timing is opportune, given the impending deployment of 5G networks. It means the combined firm can plan the rollout of its fiber network efficiently, to ensure it feeds the antenna needed for the 5G. What’s more, Britain’s departure from the European Union means it’s no longer subject to the intervention of pesky Brussels regulators, who have historically been wary about telecommunications mergers which might lift consumer prices.It’s a combination that’s long overdue, but it’s coming just in time.(Updates analyst valuations of Virgin Media and O2 in sixth paragraph.)This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editorial board or Bloomberg LP and its owners.Alex Webb is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering Europe's technology, media and communications industries. He previously covered Apple and other technology companies for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Telefonica, Liberty to Weigh O2, Virgin Merger in U.K
    Bloomberg

    Telefonica, Liberty to Weigh O2, Virgin Merger in U.K

    (Bloomberg) -- Telefonica SA and billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc are exploring a combination of their U.K. operations, people with knowledge of the matter said, in a deal that would reshape the British telecommunications industry.The companies are discussing bringing together Telefonica’s O2 wireless unit and Liberty Global’s Virgin Media business, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. If they reach an agreement, a transaction could be announced as soon as next week, the people said.Liberty Global’s class A shares rose almost 15% in New York trading Friday, while Telefonica’s American depositary receipts closed up 6.4%.A tie-up would add to a long history of dealmaking by Malone, who earned the nickname “Cable Cowboy” while at the forefront of the American pay-television industry in the 1990s. Combining forces in the U.K. would help Telefonica pare its debt and deliver on a new strategy meant to streamline its global empire.The potential deal would be the biggest in the U.K. telecommunications industry since 2015, when former monopoly BT Group Plc agreed to buy mobile operator EE Ltd. for 12.5 billion pounds ($16 billion), according to data compiled by Bloomberg.Telefonica is scheduled to announce its first-quarter earnings on May 7. No final decisions have been made, and talks could still fall apart or be delayed, the people said.A representative for Telefonica declined to comment. A spokesperson for Liberty Global couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.New Street Research valued a potential takeover of O2 UK at $15.8 billion, assuming 50% of the 5.2 billion pounds in cost savings of combining with Virgin goes to O2 owner Telefonica.“This deal has been mooted for a while, and makes a lot of sense given the trend toward fixed and wireless network convergence,” said Matthew Howett, founder of London-based analyst firm Assembly Research.A deal that brings together a fixed-line operator with a mobile provider is more likely to be approved by regulators than mobile-to-mobile consolidation, Howett said. “It doesn’t reduce competition in mobile, and preserves the four-player market that Ofcom and others have been committed to,” he said, referring to Britain’s telecommunications regulator.Mobile, TelevisionThe discussions come at a time when dealmaking has been crippled globally by the coronavirus pandemic. April was the worst month for deals globally since 2004, with a smaller volume of announced deals than even in the depths of the global financial crisis. The potential transaction would be the largest since the Covid-19 outbreak.O2, a pure-play wireless carrier, had 34.5 million customers using its network at the end of December, according to the company. O2 reported 7.1 billion euros ($7.8 billion) of revenue last year, accounting for about 15% of Telefonica’s total, data compiled by Bloomberg show.The talks mark another attempt by Telefonica to pursue a deal involving its O2 unit. In 2016, European antitrust regulators blocked Telefonica’s planned $15 billion sale of the business to billionaire Li Ka-shing’s CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd., the owner of rival operator Three.Virgin Media offers pay-television, broadband, and phone packages in the U.K. It also sells mobile services that run on BT’s network. That partnership is set to shift to Vodafone Group Plc when the current agreement runs out late next year.Liberty Global generated almost 40% of its revenue from Virgin Media last year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It bought the business in 2013 through a cash-and-stock deal valued at about $16 billion at the time of announcement.Restructuring PlanTelefonica announced a restructuring plan in November that will see it focus on four main markets, including the U.K., while scaling back its presence in Latin America. The Madrid-based company also said at the time it was looking to monetize some infrastructure assets and would take an “open approach” to deals.Malone made his name selling cable provider Tele-Communications Inc. to AT&T Inc. for $48 billion in 1999. He pursued a decade of rapid expansion in the European telecommunications industry with Liberty Global starting in 2005 before making a series of divestments in recent years.Liberty Global last year completed the sale of its German and eastern European operations to Vodafone Group Plc for 18.4 billion euros ($20 billion). The group also offloaded its satellite TV unit and sold its Austrian division to Deutsche Telekom AG in 2018. Another deal to sell Liberty Global’s Swiss business to Sunrise Communications AG fell apart last year following opposition from the buyer’s largest shareholder.In 2018, Liberty Global spun off some of its operations to form a separate vehicle called Liberty Latin America Ltd. That company then pursued a takeover of rival regional carrier Millicom International Cellular SA, though talks fell apart after the parties failed to reach an agreement on valuation.(Updates with analyst estimates in eighth paragraph)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Why Liberty Global Stock Went Up Today
    Motley Fool

    Why Liberty Global Stock Went Up Today

    What happened Shares of both Liberty Global (NASDAQ: LBTYA)(NASDAQ: LBTYK) and Telefonica (NYSE: TEF) traded higher on Friday, after Bloomberg reported these telecommunication companies are planning to merge operations in the United Kingdom.

  • Richard Branson Doesn't Have a Drop to Drink
    Bloomberg

    Richard Branson Doesn't Have a Drop to Drink

    Water, water, everywhere, Nor any drop to drink. (Bloomberg Opinion) -- Richard Branson, the billionaire entrepreneur and occasional poet, spends much of his time on his private island, Necker, indulging a passion for kite surfing. And he’s risked life and limb crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans in a hot-air balloon. But it’s only in the past few days that the above line from Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” will have begun to resonate as regards his financial affairs.On Monday he penned an extraordinary public letter appealing to the British government to provide an emergency loan to prevent the collapse of transatlantic carrier Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd., which he owns jointly along with Delta Air Lines Inc. of the U.S.Travel restrictions to curb the new coronavirus have walloped Branson’s travel and leisure holdings. He’s already spent $250 million to support his various Virgin Group portfolio companies, but most of his $5.9 billion net worth isn’t “sitting as cash in a bank account ready to withdraw,” Branson said. That has forced him to consider the drastic step of mortgaging his beloved Caribbean island home, which doubles as an ultra-expensive retreat.On one level Branson’s predicament is simple, and pretty common for someone about to turn 70: He’s asset rich, and cash poor. But considering his pretty relaxed approach to business, Branson’s financial arrangements — spanning his British Virgin Islands tax residency and a portfolio of often debt-laden holdings — are as complicated as they come.This, alongside the unappealing politics of being seen to bail out a billionaire, makes governments wary of offering a helping hand. Another of his investments, Virgin Australia Holdings Ltd., collapsed into administration this week, having failed to secure a lifeline from Canberra. British regional airline Flybe, in which Virgin held a minority stake, went bust last month after Boris Johnson’s government declined to provide further assistance.Branson has plenty of financial capital but he appears to have very little of the political kind. Even now that he’s put the keys to the family home on the table, this probably won’t change. Helped by his gift for self-publicity, many Britons are as familiar with Branson’s business career as they are with their own personal finances. But the consequence of stamping the Virgin name on everything, often in return for no more than a licensing fee, is that the public thinks he owns half of the economy and is in no need of a handout.In reality, Branson has exited businesses such as the broadband provider Virgin Media (now owned by Liberty Global) and he owns only a small piece of high-profile companies like Virgin Money UK Plc, gym chain Virgin Active and Virgin Trains USA (operator of a high-speed Florida rail line).  Branson’s talent has attracted wealthy partners, willing to invest alongside him in return for a share of the profits. One of the more unfortunately timed of these was a fleet of Virgin-branded cruise ships, co-funded by Bain Capital and the Singapore sovereign fund GIC Pte., due to start sailing this year.  Because Branson doesn’t own many Virgin Group companies outright, he can’t easily switch cash between one investment and another. And having multiple owners complicates decisions on who should bail the business out when trouble strikes. Delta and the U.S. government haven’t offered publicly to help Virgin Atlantic, for example. At Virgin Australia the buck stopped with Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and other foreign airline investors whose holdings were larger than Branson’s 10% stake.    Some of Branson’s businesses were struggling before the coronavirus struck. Virgin Atlantic lost money in the last two years for which there are published accounts. It carries a lot of debt, rents many of its planes and funded its daily operations with cash from selling tickets in advance. Passengers whose flights have been cancelled are demanding refunds. Even the company’s valuable Heathrow takeoff slots have been used as collateral.Lately Branson has reinvested profits and dividends from his various ventures into the cruise ships venture, a chain of American hotels and, above all, his space-travel company Virgin Galactic Holdings Inc. But with millions of people fretting about how to make their next mortgage or car payment, even the jobs created by these new Virgin ventures are no guarantee of winning taxpayer support. His Virgin Galactic stake is worth almost $2 billion by my calculation.(1) Monetizing it might not be easy(2) but as collateral it’s worth much more than Necker.In making his case for a bailout, Branson cited the detrimental impact on competition if his airlines were allowed to fail. He’d be the first to admit, though, that failure is part of being an entrepreneur. If he can’t persuade commercial backers to provide loans, then governments too must drive a hard bargain in exchange for assistance.Unlike Coleridge’s sailor, the similarly gray-bearded Branson might have some drinkable financial water. For now, it happens to be tied up in spaceships.(1) Based on the current share price and adjusting for Aabar's ownership interest.(2) Details of the shareholder lockups are in this SEC filing.This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg LP and its owners.Chris Bryant is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist covering industrial companies. He previously worked for the Financial Times.For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.com/opinionSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

  • Business Wire

    Liberty Global Announces Creation of $4 Million COVID-19 Employee Assistance Fund

    Liberty Global, one of the world’s leading converged video, broadband and communications companies operating across Europe, announced today the formation of a new Liberty Global Response Fund intended to help employees and their families who have been significantly affected by the COVID-19 crisis.