Freenet says it could support Sunrise/UPC Swiss tie-up

BERLIN (Reuters) – Freenet, the largest shareholder in Switzerland’s Sunrise Communications, is aware of cooperation talks between Sunrise and Liberty Global’s local Swiss business UPC and welcomes the idea of consolidation, a Freenet spokeswoman said.

She said in response to an inquiry on Monday that various combinations were possible and Freenet would need to approve any cash deal, although this was not excluded should it conclude that a transaction was in Freenet’s interests.

Freenet owns 24.6 percent of Sunrise, long the center of speculation that it could link up with UPC, most recently in a report by the Financial Times.

Cable operator Liberty Global said in November it was investing to strengthen UPC’s video offering so it could stand alone if a strategic partner was not found.

Liberty is looking to divest assets where it does not see a profitable way into mobile markets. It has sold its Austrian unit to Deutsche Telekom, while the $21.8 billion sale of its operations in Germany and Central Europe to Vodafone is being reviewed by regulators.

Sunrise shares were down 0.7 percent by 1405 GMT, while Freenet stock was down 2.4 percent.

Reporting by Nadine Schimroszik, Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by John Miller and Michelle Martin

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