Liberty says Vodafone Dutch joint venture 'probably not' a template for more deals

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Liberty Global’s chief executive said the cable group’s joint venture with mobile operator Vodafone in the Netherlands did not signal more deals between the two companies in Europe.

U.S. Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries speaks during Cable Congress in Warsaw, Poland June 28, 2016. REUTERS/Kacper Pempel - RTX2INV1

Asked at the Morgan Stanley Technology, Media and Telecoms conference whether the Dutch tie-up was a template for further deals, Mike Fries said: “Hard to say, (but) I would probably say not.”

He said the two were not talking about anything else right now. “This was a unique situation,” he said at the Barcelona conference on Thursday.

“We were bigger then them in this market. So for us it was a net cash-out deal. It was a small market, (so) a good way to get to know each other.”

Vodafone said on Wednesday regulators could look favourably on more co-operation between the two companies as a counterbalance to former telecom incumbents.

Liberty owns strategic stakes in content producers, notably a 9.9 percent holding in British broadcaster and producer ITV, which it has described as an opportunistic investment in its largest market.

Fries said there were few opportunities to do pan-European content deals because the region was fragmented.

But he noted Britain was one market in Europe where there was a trend toward vertical integration -- owning both content and distribution networks.

“Do we need to do that there ? TBD (to be decided),” he said. “I’m not going to give any read on that today.

“Simply said, for us it is about national scale and national local, relevant content, and that should be our first priority.”

Reporting by Harro Ten Wolde, Writing by Paul Sandle. Editing by Jane Merriman and Alexandra Hudson