Virgin Media’s buyer Malone in new cable deal

JOHN Malone’s Liberty Media has spent $2.6bn (£1.7bn) on a stake in US cable operator Charter Communications, the month after the billionaire reached a deal to take over Virgin Media.

Malone’s investment vehicle, Liberty Media, is taking a 27 per cent stake in Charter, betting on the growth of the pay-TV market and the potential to use its cable infrastructure to offer better broadband speeds to customers.

Charter operates in 25 states and has around 5.2m customers, making it the US’s fourth-largest cable provider behind Comcast, Time Warner and Cox Communications.

Malone, Liberty’s 72-year-old chairman, said that Charter had invested in its digital network, making it a strong candidate to capitalise on the growing demand for high-definition TV broadcasting and superfast internet.

“We are pleased with Charter’s market position and growth opportunities and believe that the company’s investments in its high-capacity digital network... will benefit its customers and shareholders alike,” Malone said.

At the beginning of last month, Malone’s separate cable company, Liberty Global, reached a £15m deal with Virgin Media that will take the UK’s second-largest broadband provider off the market. At the time Malone, who has interests in a number of US and European telecoms firms, said he sees the potential for rapid expansion of the UK pay-TV market.

Liberty Media is buying the shares from private equity firms Apollo Management, Oaktree Capital Management and Crestview Partners.

He is expected to build up his stake further in future.