Last word

US media investor Liberty Global has reached a definitive agreement to sell French cable business UPC France to private equity investor Cinven and partner Altice for €1.25bn (US$1.6bn).

The agreement follows a deal struck in March this year when Liberty and Cinven signed a non-binding letter of intent with Liberty Global to buy the unit.

In February, Cinven and Altice acquired a 40% stake in another French cable operator Ypso Holding, from France Telecom Cable and Canal Plus.

Cinven is now far and away the most significant owner of French cable infrastructure, with around 4m customers, though less than 10% of the potential French market actually subscribes to a cable operator so the deal is unlikely to raise regulatory hackles.

In November 2005, the company paid about €500m for 70% of Altice One, which operates in Belgium and Luxembourg, adding the business to Numéricable.

In March 2005, Cinven and Altice created Numéricable when they bought the cable operating subsidiaries of France Telecom and Vivendi Universal for €528m and renamed them. Cinven and Altice’s combined stake in Numéricable was 60.01%, with the original shareholders each retaining a 19.99% stake.

The disposal is one of a series for Liberty Global, which in April this year announced a deal to sell its Swedish cable unit UPC Sverige to an investor group made up of Carlyle Group and Providence Equity Partners for SKr3.2bn (US$427m), and in 2005 sold Norwegian unit UPC Norge to another private equity buyer, Candover Partners, for NKr3.6bn (US$541m).

Closing of the latest transaction is subject to regulatory approval and is expected to occur during the second half of 2006.