back to article Cable Cowboy lassoes Virgin Media with HUGE £15bn deal

The world's second biggest cable company - Liberty Global - has confirmed its plans to buy British ISP Virgin Media for $23bn (£15bn), after the telco said on Tuesday it was in talks with the corporation run by American billionaire John Malone. That stock and cash deal, which would gift Englewood, Colorado-based Liberty Global …


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  1. Peter Clarke 1

    TV Advert

    Good, we won't get to see Richard in those stupid adverts. Or maybe it can take the GoCompare route and save the nation from him.

    1. deshepherd

      Re: TV Advert

      Don't count your chickens yet ... they've said that they are retaining the Virgin brand in the UK and as to the vast bulk of the population Virgin==Branson then I'd assume they'll be keen to keep him involved (and I'm sure it won't take much persuasion to keep the shy and retiring inveterate self-publicist around!)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: TV Advert

        Actually, given the reach of the Virgin Brand, I wouldn't be so certain they won't do a France Telecom/Orange and rebrand the european businesses as Virgin.

        I'm sure beardie would take the shilling...

      2. John Ruddy

        Re: TV Advert

        To be honest, I'm not sure why. Apprently it costs them 10% as a royalty for the Virgin brand (which is paid to a Geneva based subsidary of Virgin Group, and therefore attracts no tax).

        Dump the brand, re-launch as something new and fresh (even Liberty would work well from that point of view) and attract new customers. If nothing else you've added 10% to the media company's bottom line.

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: TV Advert

          Liberty...isn't that some sort of sanitary wear products brand?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Price rise?

    When do they come into effect now?

    1. dotdavid
      Thumb Up

      Re: Price rise?

      Every month or so probably, so no change there.

  3. AndrueC Silver badge

    Are they paying off the debt or carrying it forward?

  4. Tim Parker

    Neil Berkett - who already appeared to hint at his exit in a reflective statement about Liberty Global's planned merger - has confirmed he will leave the company once the deal is completed. He said: "I am not a very good number two."

    Strangely enough I always thought of Neil Berkett, especially after the Phorm comments, as a bit of a number two...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Tim Parker

      Well, in the context you are implying, I think he could make nearly as good a "number one".

  5. Neill Mitchell

    Dear Customer

    At Virgin we try really high to keeps costs down so we can pass on great prices to our customers.

    However, due to recent market pressures, certain package prices changes will come into effect on the 1st of April.

    Blah blah

    More spin

    Blah blah

    An extra £10 a month ta very much. Yes, we know this will be the 3rd price rise in less than 2 years, but hey. Oh and if you decide to leave us because of this, we'll charge you £180 exit fees.

    Thank you for choosing Virgin, you loyalty will be rewarded in another life.

    1. David Neil

      Re: Dear Customer

      You should only be charged an exit fee if you are within the original contract terms, which also introduces a cap on how much they can bump the bill by without allowing you to walk without penalty

      1. Neill Mitchell

        Re: Dear Customer

        Virgin's contracts are an absolute masterpiece. For example, I moved to an area with no Virgin coverage. I was told I was in breach of contract and had to pay a £186 exit penalty. They absolutely refused to budge on this.

        Sure enough, buried away in the contract there is a clause that says if you move to an area without Virgin coverage you "may" be liable for a penalty "if you decide to leave" (WTF!). I tried contesting the "may" and not deciding but simply having no choice other than "leave". It didn't wash. I tried the usual name and shame Facebook and Twitter tactics, but no. Yes, I could have gone to small claims court and may have won, but after the stress of moving house I couldn't face it. Virgin knows this of course.

        What was I supposed to do? Choose a new house based on Virgin coverage? Completely mean spirited penny pinching. Result is I will never go back to Virgin and if asked will not recommend. They seem to think this is acceptable.

        So somewhere in the contract will be a clause stating in woolly legal obfuscation that they can impose price increases at will. No doubt with the phrase "if you decide to leave"...

        1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

          Re: Dear Customer

          Not being funny, but you signed a contract.

          Presumably they had some expense that would only be recouped for them if you saw out the contract in full (i.e. installation, cabling, whatever), and by moving you expected them to just release you from that contract at a loss to themselves (there's no guarantee the next resident in your house will use Virgin Media, because they are not bound by your contract).

          It's no different to clauses on phone companies, car leasing, or other things. If you agreed to the contract but didn't see out the full-term, and that causes the company a loss (like taking out a £35 contract with a "free" iPhone, and then trying to change to someone else a month down the road and still keep the iPhone), then - yes - an exit fee is perfectly reasonable.

          Though I quite often advise people that a reasonable interpretation of a contract they have signed often overrides the words actually written, in your case I don't think they could. Otherwise you would have people who "signed up" for Virgin Media one month and then scarpered the next and the company would go bankrupt just through installation costs.

          It might be "sneaky" but it was in the contract, and clearly stated, and there's a good reason to have it in there, and reasonable warning. And if you hadn't breached the contract early, you wouldn't have had to pay it - I presume.

          Fairness overrides contract law very often. But I don't think it's fair to sign into a 1, 2 or 3-year contract and then abandon it halfway through because you moved house and didn't want it any more, and the "penalty" is probably a lot less than it would have cost you to fulfil your obligations under the agreement otherwise (that could be only a few months of payments if you had the higher broadband, TV, phone and mobile package, for instance). If you'd remained a Virgin customer, or you'd not signed up to that long a contract, or you were past your initial "non-profitable" part of the contract - as agreed in the contract - then they wouldn't have charged you.

          1. Neill Mitchell

            @Lee Dowling

            "If you'd remained a Virgin customer, or you'd not signed up to that long a contract, or you were past your initial "non-profitable part"

            This is exactly my point. How could I remain a customer if they had no service in my new area? It's not that I "didn't want it any more". They could not supply what I was paying for. I didn't "scarper" to avoid fees. I moved house. A common enough occurrence that is expensive and stressful enough without such shenanigans.

            I was way beyond the profitable point. I had been a loyal customer for over 4 years up until that point.

            "It might be "sneaky" but it was in the contract, and clearly stated". The use of the word "may" is ambiguous at best.

            "It's no different to clauses on phone companies". In fact Vodafone were very good. I had no data signal where I had moved and they agreed to terminate without penalty as I could not receive the service I was paying for. Everyone except Virgin were very helpful.

            Now is all this worth the £180 Virgin squeezed out of me?

        2. Oli 1

          Re: Dear Customer

          You read the contract before you signed it though right?


          In that case the hit squad will be over for your kidneys soon, i mean, you gave them permission to take them whenever they wanted....

          1. pPPPP

            Re: Dear Customer

            I think his point is they shouldn't be allowed to put that into their contract. Virgin have a monopoly over cable TV/broadband, and they know it. This is positively encouraged by this country. Sure, you have an option to use ADSL, where multiple ISPs get to use BT's lines, but for some reason, Virgin get to have a monopoly for cable.

            It'll be interesting how this all plays out, but I can't for a minute imagine this deal will bring about any sort of competition whatsoever. Why would it?

            1. Neill Mitchell

              Re: Dear Customer

              Exactly. My point is the contract was unreasonable and used woolly terms such as "may" and "choose to leave". I did not even know when I "signed" the contract that I was going to move, let alone to an area with no coverage.

              Thames Water don't supply to my new area, but didn't hit me with a penalty. Ditto npower. In fact, the npower call centre staff member couldn't believe Virgin were doing it. This was churlish unreasonable behaviour on Virgin's part. They could have been nice and everyone would have been happy.

              As it is, Virgin lost other 3 customers because of this. My parents, brother in law and the new owners of my house after they heard what they'd done.

              Looking back, I can't believe I was chucking £72 a month for 10MBit broadband (my speed doubling never happened), 200 channels I rarely watched and a phone service where I got charged before 7pm and for calling 0845 numbers.

              Nice to see the Virgin staff down voting my posts LOL :)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Dear Customer

                Actually we're upvoting them.

                1. Neill Mitchell


                  LOL. That made my day :) Hope you guys don't get messed around.

              2. Vic

                Re: Dear Customer

                > This was churlish unreasonable behaviour on Virgin's part

                Churlish, yes. Unreasonable, no.

                The point abuot minimum-term contracts is that they are enforceable. Virgin didn't force you to move house, so they're not responsible for your breaching the contract.

                It *might* have been a good idea for them to waive their terms - but it's not unreasonable for them to stick to them. You'd have been miffed if they'd wanted you to vary the contract to your disadvantage...


        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Dear Customer

          Somewhat confused. In a situation like this you simply don't pay. You say it's their fault for not supplying the area and move on. If they want to take you to court let them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Dear Customer

      Try to walk out of any broadband contract early and you will get nailed for a fee for the unused contract. Minimum contracts are 12-24 months to recoup the cost of the supplied equipment and infrastructure. Do you work for nothing?

      A client of mine signed a new contract with an ISP by accepting a new wireless router over the phone and then ignoring the paperwork she was sent. Four months later she tried to leave. And perfectly reasonably that company wanted the unused months of the contract paid IN FULL. So £500 for the unwanted 14 months.

      And I know the "big boys" are even more aggressive with their pricing. BT, TalkTalk, etc

      At least Virgin only wanted to charge a set fee instead of the full monthly cost of the contract multiplied by months left.

      An agreement is an agreement. Why should you be treated differently? Especially if you childishly went to Facebook and Twitter to whine about it.

      If the people who bought your house changed their mind would you give them their money back or would you point at the contract signed?

      1. Neill Mitchell

        @AC 6th Feb 20:53

        "Try to walk out of any broadband contract early and you will get nailed for a fee for the unused contract. Minimum contracts are 12-24 months to recoup the cost of the supplied equipment and infrastructure. Do you work for nothing?"

        People just don't read things through do they. As stated, I had no new kit. I'd been a customer for over 4 years. I'd paid my dues. Secondly, Virgin recovered the box and modem the day before I moved. I didn't keep it like your client.

        "Especially if you childishly went to Facebook and Twitter to whine about it.".

        So what do I do, nothing? Sit there and be scalped in silence with a wry little smile? It was a form of protest. Pity more people aren't more active. Perhaps companies would improve their behaviour.

        "If the people who bought your house changed their mind would you give them their money back or would you point at the contract signed?"

        What a ridiculous analogy. LOL. A subscription service contract versus a multi hundred thousand pound property exchange. Plus, one last time, I did not change my mind! I moved to an area without coverage.

        This is all about what is reasonable and what is not. Like I said, I had did not know when renewing my contract that I was going to move. What am I supposed to do? Not renew and have no service until I decide if I'm going to stay put for the length of the new contract? Ridiculous. Overlap is inevitable. When I did decide to move, was I expected to choose a house based on Virgin availability? Again, ridiculous.

        Moving house is an common scenario that other companies seem to handle without this kind of hassle.

        1. Oli 1

          Re: @AC 6th Feb 20:53

          have to ask, were they able to offer you an adsl product at your new address?

          i went through this before but dsl is dsl,so why not keep the contract?

          if they could literally provide you no service by any means then im with you.

  6. James 51

    Title is too long

    Net income for the full year hit £2.8bn compared with £75.9m in 2011, while total revenue in 2012 grew 2.7 per cent to £4.1bn.

    Is that right?

    1. hi_robb

      Re: Title is too long

      Yes it's right,

      Something to do with previous years losses v a tax offset.

      It's mentioned here.

  7. Anonymous Coward


    So does this mean that the patriot act can be invoked by to access our data without consent seeing as it will be owned by an American company?

    1. MrWibble

      I believe that Virgin is already an "American" Comany, since it's listed on NASDAQ.

      1. Tom Wood

        One - Virgin Media is not Virgin Group. The latter just licences it's brand to the former.

        Two - reports elsewhere state that Liberty Global will be moving it's HQ to the UK (as most of their business is in Europe not the US). Liberty Media, which Malone also has a stake in, is a separate company that does business in the US.

        1. ACx

          Like having an HQ in the UK stops the US "justice" system. All it takes is the wrong packets to be cached in the US and you are theirs for the taking. UK government of course can't wait to had people over to the US.

        2. JimmyPage Silver badge

          It makes stuff all difference where anything is

          A US company is under the heel of the PATRIOT act. If they get slapped with a notice, they have to pony up the data (or shut the servers down) wherever they are. Safe harbour can go hang.

          This is what MS admitted last year, and why people need to be so careful.

    2. ACx

      Yes. And so it seems has always been the case.

  8. Derk

    debt ridden company

    Liberty Global have huge debts, they are in 'merican parlance over leveraged. They see the Virgin takeover as nothing more than a cash cow. Virgin customers be prepared to be squeezed until you squeak.

    1. Chad H.

      Re: debt ridden company

      Given VM's huge debts... That doesnt seem like a smart strategy.

  9. Tony Green


    I was planning to go over to them for my broadband so I could ditch the BT line. Branson's an arse, but I could tolerate him. Not sure I can tolerate a Yank arse though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugger!

      Branson has never had a lot to do with the running of the business...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Bugger!

      Branson has nothing to do with the business. He just gets lots of ad exposure thanks to the 30 year licensing deal Virgin Group has with Virgin Media. He owns 3% of VM through VG.

  10. Chad H.

    "I am not a very good number two."


    1. Jonathon Green

      Re: "I am not a very good number two."


      Does that mean I shouldn't say that it's about time VM laid some more cable...

  11. Maverick

    they just don't

    . . . need any more help to be asshats

    I live on a modern estate, they laid trunking some 17 years ago, they did the same on the 2 adjoining estates

    It took them >15 years to work out that if they laid trunking some 100m from the main road & then pushed some fibre down it into the estates that they could connect up several hundred houses easily without digging

    The shame is that 18 month later when I enter my address into there ordering system, guess what it says?

    Yep you guessed it "Your home isn’t in a cable area"

    I'll stick with my 6m ADSL(not bad over 3.5km of horrible quality wires), there again I specify, own & control my own modem / router - and have some idea of what I am doing. BT Openreach engineer tested it a couple of years back & swore I'd never get over 3, his face was a picture when I showed him :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: they just don't

      I'll stick with my 100MB cable :) (sorry, couldn't resist).

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Falmari Silver badge

      Re: they just don't

      That's hardly Virgin Media's fault 17 years ago the company that dug up your estate was not Virgin Media not even NTL.

  12. Mark 110

    Hasn't he owned it before

    I seem to remember that back in the day before the NTL Telewest merger that Malone owned a large proportion of the bonds that had been bought by the two companies to finance the two companies building their networks. And that the meger was triggered by Malone calling in the debts. Does this ring any bells?

    Just wondering - seems like he has owned this network before and has just been waiting his moment to come back in.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward



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