UPC to Acquire Aster

By Katarzyna Grynienko

    Liberty Global (www.lgi.com), the owner of UPC (www.upc.pl) cable net, is planning to buy Aster (www.aster.pl) for 2.4 million PLN. MID Europa Partners LLP (www.mideuropa.com) investment fund will sell 100% of Aster's shares Liberty Global for 870 million PLN, along with the current debt of the company for 1.53 million PLN. The plan, now awaiting approval of the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, would be one of the biggest purchases on the Polish cable TV market.

    "Consolidation with Aster will allow a more effective continuation of UPC's strategic goals, including further investments in modern technology, development of digital services and the super quick broadband Internet by using the synergy of both companies and the increased scale effect," Simon Boyd the Chairman of UPC Polska said in a statement.

    Both sides signed a preliminary contract in December 2010 and are currently awaiting the decision of the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection(UOKiK, www.uokik.gov.pl), which is investigating whether the transaction would cause an unfair monopoly on the cable television market in Poland. UOKiK informed the parties that it will give an opinion on the matter within the two next weeks.

    In 2010 Aster had 388,000 subscribers in total. They included 92,000 digital cable television subscribers, 177,000 internet subscribers, and 70,000 users of ground telephony services. The company, which operates in Warsaw, Krakow and Zielona Góra, recorded 420 million PLN in revenue in 2010 with a profit of 3 million PLN. UPC is the biggest cable provider in the country, with over 1 million subscribers (333,000 - digital television; 499,000 - Internet; 271,000 - ground telephony services). After the purchase, UPC will provide services to 1.5 million clients which will strengthen its leading position on the market. The second biggest cable provider in Poland is Vectra (www.vectra.pl), with 770,000 subscribers.