John Malone’s Liberty Global Plc (LBTYA:US) raised its stake in Dutch cable-television operator Ziggo NV (ZIGGO) to 28.5 percent from 18.2 percent, which it said was for strategic reasons.
Liberty Global bought 17.5 million additional shares in the Utrecht, Netherlands based company in connection with a hedging transaction related to existing Ziggo shares, according to an SEC filing published late yesterday. It raised the stake in the firm, with which it competes through its UPC Netherlands unit, out of strategic considerations, Amsterdam-based spokesman Bert Holtkamp said by telephone today. He declined to comment on whether Liberty Global plans to increase its holding further.
Malone’s cable giant has been acquiring European assets to expand in the continent’s pay-TV market. The Englewood, Colorado-based company agreed earlier this year to buy the U.K.’s Virgin Media Inc. for $16 billion. This month, Malone said he’s out of the race for Kabel Deutschland Holding AG and will look to southern Europe for opportunities when the economy there starts improving.
Ziggo said in a statement that it “will continue to act in the best interests of its stakeholders in assessing steps made by Liberty Global while continuing to focus on executing” its own strategy. Martijn Jonker, a spokesman for Ziggo, declined to comment further.
The purchase was financed through a loan linked to the hedging transaction that is secured by Ziggo shares, Liberty Global said in the SEC filing.
Based on yesterday’s closing share price, Ziggo had a market capitalization of 5.59 billion euros ($7.4 billion), valuing Liberty’s stake at 1.59 billion euros. The shares have risen 19 percent in the past 12 months.
Liberty Global first bought a 12.7 percent stake in Ziggo in March. The Dutch company started trading in Amsterdam last year after Warburg Pincus LLC and Cinven Ltd. sold part of their stakes. They disposed of their residual holdings in April.
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