Billionaire Malone Says Brexit May Prompt U.S. Wave of Takeovers
(this article originally appeared on Bloomberg)
Liberty Global Plc Chairman John Malone said sterling’s plunge could prompt a wave of takeovers by U.S. companies of their U.K. counterparts.
The pound has lost about 18 percent in value since Britain voted to leave the European Union and is the worst performer this year among a basket of major currencies. Last week’s slide leaves the currency down about 6 percent versus the dollar in October.
“Some U.K. companies really look cheap to a U.S. dollar investor,” said Malone, 75, in a phone interview. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see a lot of M&A activity by U.S. private equity or corporates when they think that the pound has kind of bottomed.”
Malone said he and his team “pay a lot of attention” to the fallout from the referendum. Companies in some industries may be so affected by the possibility of a “cliff-edge Brexit” that they are considering reducing investments, CBI Director General Carolyn Fairbairn said last week.
“As long as you are not over levered or over-committed, if things get cheap for a while that’s an opportunity to increase your investment if you believe it will balance out,” said Malone, who is worth $7.9 billion according to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index.
Earnings at Liberty’s Virgin Media cable company in the U.K. “are being badly hurt right now by the weak pound,” he said. “On the other hand, since Virgin Media is levered and owes a bunch of pounds, in dollar terms our debt is coming down by about 25 or 30 percent.”
Filings and regulatory reviews likely will have the acquisition finalized in the first half of next year.