US CABLE TV COMPANY Liberty Global has picked up Virgin Media for around £14bn.
Combining the two firms is subject to shareholder approval and will build a powerhouse firm with 25 million customers in 14 countries, Liberty claims.
"This deal is good news for the company, its customers and our people," said Sir Richard Branson. "Together, Liberty Global and Virgin Media are in a great position to shake up the industry and bring the full power of digital technology to UK consumers."
Liberty said that it will pay $23.3bn for Virgin Media, adding that this is based on both its business value and its equity. In a statement Liberty said it will take on Virgin Media's business and its people.
"Virgin Media will add significant scale and a first-class management team in Europe's largest and most dynamic media and communications market," said Mike Fries, President and CEO of Liberty Global. "Virgin Media's market leading innovation and product expertise, particularly in mobile and B2B, will accelerate our own development of these business segments."
As part of the deal Liberty Global will move from Delaware in the US to the United Kingdom.
Over at Virgin Media the talk is equally positive. "Over the past six years, Virgin Media has transformed the digital experience of millions of customers, catalysed a deep-rooted change in the UK's digital landscape and delivered impressive growth and returns for our shareholders," said Virgin Media CEO Neil Berkett.
"I'm confident that this deal will help us to build on this legacy. Virgin Media and Liberty Global have a shared ambition, focus on operational excellence and commitment to driving shareholder value."
The announcement coincides with the release of Virgin Media's fairly rosy full year financial results. The firm said that it had added some 90,000 cable customers in 2012, just over half of whom joined in the last quarter.
The number of people using its video on demand Tivo service increased by 896,900 over the year, 87,300 of whom joined in the fourth quarter, to 1.3 million.
Virgin Media also said that it has 2.2 million people on high speed, that is, 30Mbit/s, broadband connections. Here 419,400 people joined up in the fourth quarter and 1.5 million in the last year. Revenues increased by 2.7 percent to £4.1bn for the year.
By comparison, BT has some 1.25 million homes and businesses using what it calls "faster speeds" on its fibre network. It offers three kinds of fibre connections, up to 38Mbit/s, 76Mbit/s and 160Mbit/s, respectively.
BT's Openreach division, which supports other providers including Talktalk, Plusnet and Sky, has a broadband customer base of 17.4 million. BT Retail has over one million customers, and Sky says that it has 4.2 million broadband users. µ