Liberty Global weighs O2 bid if merger with Three is blocked
Liberty Global, the cable company that owns Virgin Media, has signalled interest in buying mobile network O2 if its takeover by rival operator Three is blocked. The European Commission is today expected to officially reject attempts by Hong Kong’s CK Hutchison to merge its UK network Three with Telefonica’s O2 in a deal worth £10.25bn.

But Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s chief executive, told investors yesterday: “We look at all options in the marketplace and it would be strange if we didn’t evaluate that option.”

Virgin Media, which owns broadband infrastructure, currently rents space on EE’s network so it can offer its Virgin Mobile service.

The cable company has already offered to build a fourth mobile network if Brussels regulators clear the Three-O2 deal, which could force the pair to sell off radio spectrum infrastructure.

The sale of O2 to Virgin Media would give it access to 25m mobile customers and create a powerful combination of broadband and mobile network infrastructure.
Liberty Global owner John Malone - dubbed the “cable cowboy” - has previously mooted a merger or asset swap with telecoms giant Vodafone, but despite a tie-up in Holland talks on home soil have failed to bear fruit.

Telefonica has said it is open to talking to other buyers for O2 if the deal is blocked, as well as floating the company.