Virgin Media confirms Liberty Global bid, shares rocket higher

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LONDON (ShareCast) - Virgin Media (NasdaqGS: VMED - news) on Tuesday confirmed reports John Malone's Liberty Global (NasdaqGS: LBTYA - news) has made a bid to take over the UK cable operator.

Liberty has put in an offer for Britain's second biggest pay-TV business, which has a market value of £7.554bn.

"Virgin Media confirms that it is in discussions with Liberty Global, a leading international cable company, concerning a possible transaction," Virgin said in a statement.

"Any such transaction would be subject to regulatory and other conditions. A further announcement will be made in due course."

Virgin was formed by the merger of cable groups Telewest and NTL and mobile operator Virgin Mobile. The company sells cable TV, telephony and broadband and competes with market leader BSkyB (LSE: BSY.L - news) , part-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp (NasdaqGS: NWS - news) .

A successful bid for the pay-TV operator would put Malone head-to-head with Murdoch.

The two have been rivals and partners over the years with Malone accumulating an 18% stake in Murdoch's News Corp. before exchanging it for the media giant's holding in US satellite business DirectTV.

However, Malone told the Financial Times in November (Xetra: A0Z24E - news) 2011 he would not bid against Murdoch for BSkyB after the phone-hacking scandal forced News Corp. to drop its efforts to buy the entire stake of the company.

"In all the transactions we have done with him he has had the greatest integrity, [so] I am not about to jump and give him a hard time," he said at the time.

But he expressed his desire to be in the UK and said he believed cable companies would gain market share from satellite platforms as internet video services increase.

Shares in Virgin Media are rocketing higher by 14.49% to 2,820p on Tuesday.

RD