Competition Authority approves NTL takeover

7 Nov 2005

The Competition Authority of Ireland has given Liberty Global the go-ahead to acquire cable operator NTL Ireland for €325m. However, the authority has attached 19 conditions governing the combination of NTL Ireland with Liberty and its existing Chorus operation.

Among the 19 conditions is a requirement for a separate board of directors to supervise the day-to-day operations of the combined business of NTL and Chorus, the Limerick-based cable operator that Liberty acquired last year for €55m. The board will feature representatives from UGC, its parent company Liberty and an independent director from a Dublin law firm.

Liberty has 30 days to raise objections and make provisions to meet the conditions. After that the only obstacle to the takeover is approval from the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin TD.

In May, Liberty Global through its subsidiary UGC, following a heady-bidding process, agreed with investment bank Morgan Stanley to buy NTL’s Irish subsidiary, depending on regulatory approval from the Competition Authority for €329m. The total purchase price is approximately €325m excluding an adjustment for cash in the business at closing, plus a €4m arrangement fee and reimbursement of certain expenses and costs incurred by Morgan Stanley.

Sources say ownership of both NTL and Chorus would not only give Liberty a dominant presence in Ireland’s cable TV and internet sector but a much needed €200m cash injection to upgrade infrastructure would create a meaningful competitor to incumbent telecoms player Eircom and a much-needed shot in the arm for Ireland’s flagging communications infrastructure.

By John Kennedy