Liberty says it has ‘no interest’ in amending UPC sale; UPC preps for nationwide gigabit offering

27 Aug 2019

Liberty Global has said that it has ‘no intention or interest’ in amending the agreement for the sale of its Swiss cable operator arm, UPC Switzerland, to local rival Sunrise Communications. The announcement follows a public dispute between Sunrise and its largest shareholder, freenet, over the terms of the purchase agreement. freenet confirmed earlier this month that it would vote against the deal, arguing: that the purchase price was too high: that potential synergies of around CHF1.3 billion (USD1.33 billion) were being paid to Liberty Global in advance; and that the all-cash nature of the deal left Sunrise and its shareholders with all of the execution risks. The company had gone on to suggest that the purchase price be lowered and for Liberty to take on a portion of the risk by remaining a shareholder in the combined entity. Sunrise responded by reiterating its commitment to the deal in its current form, and accused freenet of being ‘guided by its own short-term financial constraints and self-serving objectives’. Sunrise went on to say that it had determined that the freenet’s representatives on the Sunrise board ‘suffer from a conflict of interest’ and as such would be excluded from further deliberations on the UPC transaction.

Weighing in on the dispute, Liberty Global has reiterated its commitment to the binding terms of the original agreement and said it would complete the transaction ‘as agreed’. In a press release from the group, Liberty added that it ‘has not had any discussions regarding amending the binding transaction terms, and has no intention or interest in doing so’.

In a related development, meanwhile, UPC Switzerland has announced that it is preparing for the introduction of a 1Gbps broadband offering nationwide. The development is part of UPC’s investment programme for the year, which will see it spend a total of CHF275 million on products, networks, and customer service. As a result of the investment, UPC says it will make gigabit speeds available throughout its footprint, including in both urban and rural areas. CEO Severina Pascu was quoted as saying of the development: ‘With the introduction of nationwide gigabit offers, we are taking digitisation in Switzerland to a new level. On the one hand, rural regions will gain access to gigabit speeds for the first time ever, benefiting both residential and business customers throughout the country, while on the other hand we are offering an attractive alternative in cities with existing gigabit offerings.’

Switzerland, freenet, Liberty Global, Sunrise (formerly Sunrise UPC), Sunrise Communications