Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Combining Telenet/Base and VodafoneZiggo could bring the Vodafone brand to Belgium

Liberty Global has recently made some public statements about its strategy. The integration of the Dutch activities was not discussed. It must be the worry of the VodafoneZiggo joint venture. However, a scenario is conceivable in which Liberty Global pulls in the JV. That could lead to a merger with Telenet / Base, with a stock market listing to boot.

Content and network

With regard to content, Liberty Global gives preference to a large portfolio, supplemented with local content for the purpose of differentiation. Besides FTA (free-to-air) the emphasis is on sports, production and OTT. In addition, Liberty Global, believes (given a world of abundant content), in the concept of 'attention economics'. Focus is on the consumer's attention. It is important to capture it with good content, and a good interface. As for networks, the company is working on DOCSIS 3.1 and the assumption is that a connection speed of 500-750 Mb/s justifies an increase of 10 to 15 €/month. Other technologies have the attention, including 5G (for backhaul, not for the possible replacement of the local loop.


The company's structure is also getting ample attention. Latin America is split off into the LiLAC stock, while the Netherlands is a deconsolidated joint venture and Belgium has its own listing. In some countries there is a merger with a mobile operator (Belgium, Netherlands), in others an MVNO is created. The UK and Ireland merged into Virgin Media and Switzerland and Austria combined into UPC Central Europe. Combination of the Netherlands and Belgium in a new entity on paper also has benefits. There will be more scale, there may be savings in overhead and there is some synergy in the fields of content and networks. It could lead to the creation of a pan-Benelux operator.

This scenario offers some interesting additional features:
  • The brand portfolio can be streamlined. In both countries, the situation is sub-optimal. Belgium has the brands Telenet and Base, the Netherlands has Ziggo and Vodafone. It could be streamlined in one clean sweep.
  • In agreement with Vodafone, the Vodafone brand could be launched in Belgium. If not as the main brand, then as a mobile brand.
  • The Telenet stock market listing can be maintained and VodafoneZiggo might be gobbled up. The Benelux activity as a whole would have a listing, which could offer the parent companies an exit strategy, over time. Or either of them could take full control.