Jul 29, 2019

Virgin Media chief looks to take on BT with bigger war chest

When Liberty Global this week receives about €10.6bn in proceeds from the sale of its German and eastern European cable networks to Vodafone, it will turn its attention to revitalising what is now its main asset: Virgin Media. Lutz Schüler took over as chief executive of the UK cable network last month, taking the reins at a time its parent company has a replenished war chest that some observers suggest could fund a move into mobile. The company, which has been linked to O2, Three and Vodafone's UK mobile network, could play kingmaker in the UK telecoms market by creating a converged broadband-mobile player to take on incumbent BT. Mr Schüler is a key lieutenant of US "Cable cowboy" John Malone and Mike Fries, who control Liberty. Mr Schüler, who made his name working for O2 in Germany, admits there could be big synergies for Virgin if it buys a mobile network. "Project Hermes", along with Virgin's existing £3bn "Project Lightning" network investment plan, could expand the Virgin footprint by 8m homes, increasing its reach from half the country to about 70 per cent - raising the stakes in a challenge to BT's Openreach.

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