Vodafone won't rule out adding UK to Liberty Global 'asset swap'

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has suggested that the UK could eventually become a topic of conversation in the ongoing ‘asset swaps’ between itself and Liberty Global.

The two firms first held talks in 2015 but there was no exchange of assets. However in 2016, the two firms agreed to merge their mobile and cable operators in the Netherlands in a bid to take on incumbent KPN.

The latest round of talks is believed to concern Germany, with a possible union of Vodafone’s mobile network and cable firm Unitymedia on the cards.

Vodafone UK future

During a panel discussion, Colao reportedly refused to rule out the UK, where Vodafone might be interested in acquiring Virgin Media, but added that other countries – presumably Germany - were the priority for the time being.

The combined German telco would be a threat to Deutsche Telekom and has led to a war of words between Colao and his counterpart Tim Hottges, who has said any merger would be blocked by authorities.

Colao had expressed his surprise at Hottges comments at Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona, where he delivered a keynote speech outlining Vodafone’s vision for 5G and the ‘gigabit future’.

He reiterated calls for more permissive regulation, cheaper spectrum and a level playing field wit over the top (OTT) operators, arguing Vodafone was committed to innovation because it operated in different markets and didn’t have to defend just one territory.

“We are like a challenger, but we are also an incumbent in a certain way,” he declared. “We like innovation but we’re are also very financial disciplined.

“I am optimistic about the next five years.”

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.