(Bloomberg) -- Sunrise Communications Group AG is nearing a deal to acquire Liberty Global Plc’s Swiss business in a deal that would value the company at about 6.3 billion Swiss francs ($6.3 billion) including debt.
Sunrise, confirming an earlier report by Bloomberg, said Tuesday in a statement that it’s in “advanced discussions” with Liberty’s UPC Switzerland and no final decision has been made. An agreement could be announced as early as this week, said people familiar with the matter who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The telecommunications companies may still decide against going ahead with a deal, the people said.
Sunrise had said earlier this month that it was in discussions with Liberty Global about a possible purchase of UPC Switzerland.
“Sunrise will only pursue a transaction if it is strategically compelling and demonstrably value creative for its shareholders,” the company said in its statement. “In the event of a transaction, Sunrise is committed to a prudent capital structure and to retaining its existing progressive dividend policy.”
The company added: “A further announcement will be made if and when appropriate.”
A representative for Liberty Global declined to comment. Sunrise shares fell 1.4 percent to 80.3 Swiss francs at 9:41 a.m. in Zurich, bringing its enterprise value to 4.8 billion Swiss francs, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Liberty Global shares rose 3.7 percent in New York trading Tuesday.
A tie-up between Liberty Global and Sunrise has long been discussed. The two companies had previously held talks about forming a Swiss joint venture using a structure similar to the one billionaire John Malone engineered between Liberty Global and Vodafone Group Plc in the Netherlands, people familiar with the matter said about a year ago. In September, Liberty Global Chief Executive Officer Mike Fries said that Sunrise was a potential partner and also raised the possibility of an initial public offering for UPC.
The Swiss market has been a challenging one for the companies with four major providers offering wireless, internet and TV. Buying customers out of their existing contracts and luring them with gifts is common practice among operators in the hyper-competitive market.
Sunrise’s biggest investor is German mobile provider Freenet AG, which controls about 25 percent of the shares, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
Liberty Global is due to report full-year earnings and hold an investor call Wednesday after the close of regular trading in the U.S., and Sunrise is set to announce its own full-year results Thursday before trading in Switzerland.
(Updates with shares and earnings timetable from sixth paragraph.)
--With assistance from Aaron Kirchfeld.
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