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Vodafone says Liberty Global tie-up talks ended

Hugo Philpott | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Vodafone , the world's second largest mobile operator, said on Monday it had ended talks with Liberty Global about an exchange of assets.


The phone company's shares were down about 2 percent in early Monday trading following the announcement. Discussions are understood to have foundered on price, according to a source with knowledge of the situation. Talks had centered on Liberty's German operations.

"Vodafone's been an investment banker's Christmas present for decades," John Haynes, head of research at Investec Wealth & Investment, told CNBC. "This particular deal was an opportunity potentially, but you're not going to get cheap assets off Liberty Global."

Vodafone said in June it was considering swapping some businesses with Europe's biggest cable company, a move that would enable the groups to sell the packages of mobile, fixed-line, broadband and television increasingly offered by rivals.

Liberty's Chairman John Malone said earlier this month the two groups were struggling to progress with the plan, telling Bloomberg that "conceptually there could be some real value created but realistically we haven't been able to figure out a way to do that that's mutually successful".

The companies have never specified which assets were being discussed, but bankers and industry analysts said in June Vodafone was most likely interested in Liberty's UK arm Virgin Media, while the main attraction for Liberty was Vodafone's German cable business.

Liberty, which already owns Unity Media, Germany's second-biggest cable operator, had long coveted its bigger rival Kabel Deutschland, which Vodafone bought in 2013 for $10 billion.

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