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Liberty Global has formed a joint venture with one of the UK’s most acquisitive telecoms investors, as it looks to boost the growth prospects of its Virgin Media business unit.
The cable company controlled by John Malone has formed an acquisition vehicle with MXC Capital with a view to acquiring small technology and telecoms companies and building a larger business. If successful, the new group could be folded into Virgin Media’s business operations at a later date, according to a person with knowledge of the plans.
Both companies declined to comment on the deal.
MXC has bought and sold 90 UK technology and telecoms companies in the past 15 years, including parts of Redstone, a telecoms company specialising in large properties such as Westfield shopping centre in London, and marketing company 2ergo. The company will take operational control of MXLG Acquisitions, the newly formed joint venture.
Liberty Global and MXC have been in talks over the venture for a number of months and have identified a list of targets to build a substantial player in the market for small business telecoms and technology service providers.
Virgin Media is a significant player in the business-to-business market, with a particular focus on small and medium-sized enterprises, and has made numerous attempts to expand its business.
It held talks with Daisy Group, the small-cap telecoms specialist, about a £500m acquisition in 2014 but did not bid for the company. The deal would have been Liberty Global’s biggest UK acquisition since it paid $23.3bn for Virgin Media in 2013.
Daisy, which has been reported to be considering an initial public offering in 2018, has rolled up dozens of smaller companies and merged with Alternative Networks, another small-cap telecoms specialist, last year.
Virgin Media said it added 19,000 new small businesses which drove a 78 per cent rise in subscription revenue in the third quarter. But overall business-to-business revenue only grew 2 per cent to £186m as lower data and voice revenue offset new customer additions.
Anthony Miller, an analyst with TechMarketView, said that many small businesses like dealing with smaller telecoms providers, not giant players. He added that MXC also needs to deal with the “mouse dances with elephant’ syndrome” in its partnership with Liberty.