Telenet Group, a subsidiary of international cable television conglomerate Liberty Global (LG), agreed on Monday to purchase Belgian mobile network operator BASE Company in a US$1.4 billion deal that represents LG’s first-ever acquisition of a facilities-based wireless carrier. Owned 56.67% by LG, Telenet offers wireless services to 900,000 Belgian subscribers as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO). The company leases network capacity from Mobistar, Belgium’s second-largest wireless operator. The proposed deal would give Telenet control of the network and 3.3 million customers of BASE, which is owned by KPN of the Netherlands and ranks as the third-largest provider of mobile phone services in Belgium. Upon completion of the transaction, Telenet and Mobistar would each control a 30% share of the Belgian wireless market, with a 40% share to remain in the hands of current market leader Belgacom.
In a press statement, LG observed that the pact “will enable Telenet to compete more effectively in a mobile market with significant growth opportunities, while offering a full range of fixed and mobile services to the benefit of consumers and businesses in Belgium.” Although LG CEO Mike Fries affirmed that “elsewhere in Europe, we will continue to focus primarily on our existing MVNO arrangements,” he emphasized that the agreement with BASE brings “a unique opportunity to secure ownership of mobile capacity at an attractive price.” KPN CEO Eelco Blok, meanwhile, welcomed the deal as one that “shows our commitment to realize an attractive return for our shareholders” as he observed that BASE “has been very successful as a challenger in the Belgian mobile market.”