Vodafone’s informal 7bn Euro German bid

By on June 25, 2013

The UK’s largest mobile operator Vodafone has confirmed that it’s in early talks to buy German cable TV outfit Kabel Deutschland for a rumoured 7bn Euros.

That’s a lot of money for what’s being described as an ‘informal’ deal. How much has to be on the table before Vodafone might consider it worth calling formal?

The deal would score the UK business a network with a market cap of 6.6bn Euros providing some 8.5m German households with TV, phone and broadband services. It would also be Vodafone’s biggest blow-out since it went into India in 2007, and inevitably calls to mind the firm’s previous giant acquisition in Germany, the hostile takeover of Mannessmann masterminded by former CEO Chris Gent back in 2000.

There’s no suggestion that a deal to buy Kabel Deutschland (not the snappiest of handles admittedly but at least you can tell what the firm does from its name) would be anything other than amicable at this stage however. It’s all part of Vodafone boss Vittorio Colao’s strategy to expand the business beyond its traditional wireless markets in order to compete with the growing number of quad-play rivals (that’s phone, mobile, broadband and TV by the way).

Essentially the telecoms market, having split into specialist players at around the time that GSM mobiles and the internet first took off in the mid-90s, is now reconsolidating around a smaller number of core full-service media giants, and Vodafone wants to be one of them. Think BT with BT Vision and Virgin Media’s recent acquisition by Liberty Global. Not to mention Sky, which has been doing broadband for years and is even getting into TV production these days.

It’s thought that migrating Vodafone customers in Germany to Kabel Deutschland’s fixed fibre optic network could result in substantial savings for any combined group. But as is so often the way, investors seem keener on the biddee than the bidder – the news sent KD’s shareprice up 7% while Vodafone’s fell by 5.5%.

Of course the $80bn question for Vodafone at the moment remains what is going to be done about the firm’s stake in Verizon Wireless. Even George Osborne is interested – a windfall of that size could have a substantial impact on the UK economy, especially if Vodafone could be persuaded to pay a decent chunk of tax on any sale.

So CEO Colao is probably glad to have the KD deal talks to occupy his mind while he weights up the Verizon question. Will he or won’t he? Watch this space.

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