Liberty Global Said Set to Win EU Approval for Ziggo Deal

Aug 26, 2014 12:19 pm ET

(Adds comment from Liberty Global in sixth paragraph.)

Aug. 26 (Bloomberg) -- Liberty Global Plc is poised to win European Union approval to buy Dutch cable operator Ziggo NV after it pledged to sell a TV channel, according to two people familiar with the EU’s probe of the 4.9 billion-euro ($6.5 billion) takeover. Ziggo shares climbed.

Concessions by billionaire John Malone’s Liberty Global will enable it to dodge formal objections to the deal from the European Commission, the two people said on condition of anonymity because the merger approval process is confidential.

The commitments include an offer to sell Liberty Global’s Film 1 premium channel, a promise to maintain access for so- called over-the-top operators such as Netflix Inc. and a pledge not to discriminate against rivals that buy its content, one of the people said.

Ziggo shares rose 0.9 percent to 35.42 euros in Amsterdam, after it reversed earlier intraday trading losses. Liberty Global advanced 0.2 percent in New York.

EU approval would see Liberty Global add Ziggo’s 2.7 million cable customers in the Netherlands to its UPC cable unit to take on Dutch carrier Royal KPN NV. Liberty Global, which owns cable operators from Hungary to the U.K., has been expanding into TV production and programs to drive growth as the number of cable assets for acquisitions in Europe dwindles.

“We continue our constructive discussions with the European Commission and remain confident that we will complete the transaction before year end,” Bert Holtkamp, a spokesman for Liberty Global, said by e-mail today, declining to comment further.

Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission, declined to comment. Ziggo referred requests for comment to Liberty Global.

Last month, Liberty Global bought a stake in ITV Plc, the U.K.’s biggest commercial broadcaster with top-rated shows such as “Downton Abbey.” The 6.4 percent investment was purchased from Rupert Murdoch’s British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc for 481 million pounds ($797 million), with Liberty Global saying it doesn’t plan to make a full takeover bid for now.

In May, Liberty Global teamed up with Discovery Communications Inc. to buy Permira Advisers LLP’s television producer All3Media, in a deal valuing the company at 550 million pounds. The EU has an initial deadline of Sept. 16 to rule on that deal.

EU regulators have until Nov. 3 to rule on the Liberty Global-Ziggo transaction.

--With assistance from Elco van Groningen in Amsterdam.