Virgin Media and O2 UK merger under consideration?

4 May 2020

A possible merger of British mobile network operator (MNO) O2 UK and local multi-play service provider Virgin Media is being discussed by the pair’s respective parent companies, according to The Guardian. It is understood that Liberty Global, which owns Virgin Media as well as a 10% stake in British broadcaster ITV, has begun talks with O2 UK’s parent company, Spain-based Telefonica, over the possibility of combining their respective UK assets in a joint venture, with there also some speculation as to whether Liberty Global might be open to including ITV in the deal. However, the report notes that none of the aforementioned parties have officially commented on the matter.

A previous merger effort including O2 UK came to nought back in 2016, after a bid for the cellco by rival Hutchison 3G UK (Three) that had been made the previous year was blocked by the EC on competition grounds. Subsequent to that, Telefonica considered a number of options for its British unit, including an initial public offering (IPO) or private equity sale. Any such plans were shelved by the Spanish outfit in the wake of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, however, with it confirming in June 2016 that it would consolidate O2 UK back into its financial statements, and no longer present the unit as a ‘discontinued operation’.

United Kingdom, Liberty Global (incl. LGI), O2 UK, Telefonica, Virgin Media