Liberty Global Plc, the cable company controlled by John Malone, made a preliminary offer for Kabel Deutschland Holding AG, pitting it against Vodafone Group Plc for control of Germany’s largest cable provider, with a market value of 7.3 billion euros ($9.8 billion).
Kabel Deutschland, based in Unterfoehring, Germany, received a proposal from Liberty Global, it said in a statement late Monday, without disclosing the price. Liberty offered about 85 euros a share, the Financial Times reported. Vodafone’s informal offer valued Kabel Deutschland at between 81 and 82 euros a share, people familiar with the matter said on June 12.
Shares in Kabel Deutschland have climbed 30 percent since Vodafone’s interest in the company first surfaced on Feb. 13. The German company would bring a new owner 8.5 million paying households and potential customers for combined landline, mobile and TV subscriptions in Europe’s biggest telecommunications market. Liberty this month completed the $24 billion purchase of Virgin Media Inc. in the U.K.
Liberty Global shares fell 2.2 percent to $72.03 in New York. Kabel Deutschland shares slipped less than 1 percent to 82.47 euros in Frankfurt. The Liberty announcement came after the close of trading in Germany. Vodafone stock closed up 1.5 percent at 182.70 pence in London.
Vodafone and Kabel Deutschland haven’t started talks because the German company determined that the price Vodafone indicated it was willing to pay was too low, said the people familiar with the matter, who asked not to be named because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. Discussions with the company could start as soon as Vodafone comes back with a higher price, those people said.
Marcus Smith, a spokesman for Liberty Global, declined to comment beyond the statement made by Kabel Deutschland. A Vodafone representative also declined to comment.
Analysts have cited potential German antitrust hurdles in Liberty Global’s quest for Kabel Deutschland. In 2010, Liberty Global acquired Unitymedia, with operations in central and western Germany, and added southwest operator Kabel Baden-Wuerttemberg the following year.
German regulators placed conditions on Liberty Global’s 2011 accord to buy KabelBW, including removing basic encryption of digital free television programs and enabling competitors to bid on contracts with housing associations.
Kabel Deutschland itself was blocked from buying smaller rival Tele Columbus Group in February after the antitrust office said the deal would hamper competition.
Telecommunications companies have commanded a 27 percent takeover premium in the past 12 months, according to data compiled by Bloomberg based on the average of 27 acquisitions valued at more than $1 billion. Softbank Corp.’s pending deal for Sprint Nextel Corp. would be the largest this year. The Japanese company’s latest offer for Sprint is $21.6 billion for a 78 percent stake.
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