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Vodafone confirms Liberty Global Netherlands talks

Vodafone has confirmed that it is in discussions with Liberty Global about creating a joint venture in the Netherlands.

JohnMalone2In a statement responding to recent media speculation,Vodafone said the firms are discussing a tie-up that would incorporate both companies’ local operating businesses.

However, it stressed that “the discussions are ongoing and do not extend beyond the creation of a joint venture in the Netherlands”.

The admission follows a Bloomberg report stating that Liberty and Vodafone had resumed talks about possible asset swaps in Europe after scrapping discussions about some of their biggest markets last year.

Last month a UK press report claimed that talks between Liberty Global and Vodafone have been revived in recent weeks with a potential £140 billion (US$203 billion) merger in the offing.

According to the Daily Mail, Liberty chairman John Malone (pictured) instigated new merger talks, and major investors for both Liberty and Vodafone have responded favourably to the prospect of a “friendly merger”.

Vodafone previously issued a statement in September 2015 saying that early-stage discussions – regarding a possible exchange of “selected assets” with Liberty Global – had been terminated.

Earlier in the same month, Malone said that the two companies had not been able to come up with a combination or asset swapthat would work for both partners, telling Bloomberg that while “there’s a price at which Liberty could be bought”, a full merger or acquisition was unlikely.

Vodafone confirmed it was in early discussions with Liberty in June 2015, but said at the time: “There is no certainty that any transaction will be agreed, nor is there certainty with respect to which assets will ultimately be involved.”

Liberty Global’s TV assets include pay platform Virgin Media in the UK, Ziggo in the Netherlands and programme producer All3Media, which it jointly owns with Discovery Communications. It also owns a small piece of Lionsgate Entertainment, and spun out premium cabler Starz in 2013. Malone remains Starz’s largest single shareholder.