Liberty Global, which is in talks with Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) about a possible US$5.7 billion takeover, had been buying up television, cable and telecommunications companies across Europe over the past few years before turning its attention to the rapidly growing markets in Latin America and the Caribbean.
If its acquisition of CWC takes place, the company will significantly increase its presence in this region where its markets are currently limited to Puerto Rico and Chile.
Analysts say Liberty, which is headed by 74-year-old American tycoon John Malone, is already a huge international operator providing television, broadband internet and telephony services to 27 million customers across 14 countries, mostly in Europe. The main objective, they say, is to combine CWC with its existing assets in the region and pose a stronger challenge to Spanish-owned Telefonica, as well as the telecoms interests held by Mexican billionaire, Carlos Slim.
Late last week, officials of both companies ended months of speculation when they confirmed that takeover discussions were in progress. Liberty has until November 19 to make an offer or announce that it has no intention to buy CWC.
Liberty's buying spree has so far included acquisition of Irish broadcaster TV3 and Belgian mobile-phone operator BASE Company, as well as the purchase of shares in British broadcaster ITV and in production house All3Meida in just the past year. Previous acquisitions, the UK's Virgin Media and Dutch cable operator Ziggo, have already put the company well on the way to becoming a global media and content-distribution giant.
Earlier this year, CWC acquired Columbus International in a US$1.85 billion deal which brought significant additions to its business assets across the region in the form of fibre optic submarine backhaul and terrestrial broadband and television. In recent months the company moved to focus only on its Caribbean operations by selling its assets in Macau and Monaco and relocating its management headquarters from London to Miami.
Reports are that the consolidation of the two companies has been under active consideration for several months. However, CWC has been telling its investors there is no "certainty that any firm offer will be made, nor the terms on which any such offer might be made."
CWC chief executive Phil Bentley hinted at a takeover approach earlier in the year when he said: "We've got into a position of strength to be the regional powerhouse, which is good but we'll never be a global player. We're a big fish in our little Caribbean Sea.
"We've got to just play our game in the region and if one of the global players comes knocking on our door, then so be it. If someone then puts enough money on the table then so be it. Nobody is immune from takeover interest."
Liberty Global's consumer brands are Virgin Media, Ziggo, Unitymedia, Telenet, UPC, VTR and Liberty. Its operations also include Liberty Global Business Services and Liberty Global Ventures.
Malone, a billionaire business executive, landowner and philanthropist, is chairman of Liberty Media, Liberty Global, and Liberty Interactive.