You may not hear much about Liberty Global in the news because all of its $11.3 billion annual revenue comes from outside the United States.
But if you're interested in cable operators, particularly those with potential for significant growth, it's a company worth paying attention to. Plus, with legendary cable mogul John Malone as the company's chairman, it is good reason to find out what the company has in store for investors going forward.
I sat down for an interview with Liberty Global's CEO Mike Fries; he's here at the CES with Malone and the rest of Liberty's board to explore new technologies and meet with investors and potential partners. On the heels of DirecTV's launch of three 3D channels this year, I asked him about the importance of 3D television. He said the sector is in a 'chicken and egg' situation -- there still isn't enough great 3D content to push distribution over the tipping point.
Fries said there are no further plans for other massive acquisitions, following Liberty's purchase of Germany's second largest cable operator Unitymedia in November for $5.2 billion. He said the company's been repurchasing stock, hence they don't have a warchest of cash on hand. And of course I couldn't help but ask what John Malone has planned. That he wouldn't answer.
Liberty's networks -- video voice and Internet -- reach nearly 35 million homes, with 16.6 million customers in 14 countries around the world. With a big presence in Europe, Japan, Chile and Australia, it faces competition; but its rivals, for the most part, aren't as strong and established as the cable giants in the US (TWC, CMCSA). And many of these markets aren't as saturated as the US, where cable, satellite (DTV, DISH), and telecom companies (T, VZ) are fighting to get consumers to upgrade to additional services rather than sign people up.