Liberty Global boss hints at T-Mobile takeover

By:
James Pearce
Published on:

John Malone claims three biggest cable operators could partner to buy US arm of Deutsche Telekom

Liberty Global chairman John Malone has opened the door to the possibility of a consortium of cable operators buying US mobile operator T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom.

Malone suggested the US’s three largest cable companies – Comcast, Charter (which is part-owned by Malone) and Cox Communications – could enter the wireless business by acquiring T-Mobile.

Speaking at a Lions Gate investor event, Malone claimed the presidency of Donald Trump could lead to more consolidation across the industry due to less-restrictive regulatory oversight, according to a Bloomberg report.

The US billionaire claimed moves from telcos such as AT&T and Verizon into the TV space could prompt the major cable providers to respond by making a push into mobile services.

“Maybe the three major cable companies get together and buy T-Mobile,” Malone said. “One could contemplate in a Trump administration Comcast and Charter could merge,” he said, referring to the No. 1 and No. 2 cable TV providers.

Malone’s Liberty Global already owns a number of mobile operations, including licensing the Virgin brand in the UK and Ireland, and a recently-launched joint-venture with Vodafone in the Netherlands.

T-Mobile has been linked to a sale for a number of years, with SoftBank-owned Sprint rumoured to be in talks about a merger in 2014.

The Japanese company said it had abandoned the idea of a takeover in August of that year, while Xavier Neal was also linked with a potential takeover.

CEO John Legere was recently disparaging of cable companies looking to enter the mobile space through MVNO agreements. The outspoken chief executive said on 5 January that cable companies planning to enter into network-sharing agreements with carriers would be “in full retreat” by the end of the year.