British telecommunications giant Vodafone agreed to buy a raft of US cable giant Liberty Global's European activities for 18.4 billion euros ($21.9 billion), which it said would catapult it into being the largest operator in the EU.
The deal, worth the equivalent of £16.1 billion, will see Vodafone acquire Liberty's operations in the Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary and Romania, the London-listed firm said. The blockbuster deal "accelerates Vodafone's converged communications strategy through in-market consolidation", it added.
Vodafone will become the leading next generation network owner in Europe, with a total reach of 110 million homes and businesses.
"This transaction will create the first truly converged pan-European champion of competition," said Vodafone chief executive Vittorio Colao. "We are committed to accelerating and deepening investment in next generation mobile and fixed networks, building on Vodafone's track record of ensuring that customers benefit from the choice of a strong and sustainable challenger to dominant incumbent operators."
Following the deal Vodafone will be serving the largest number of mobile customers and households across the EU, the company said, adding that the acquisition of Unitymedia in Germany would create a "national challenger", throwing the gauntlet down to dominant player Deutsche Telekom.
"The combination of Vodafone and Unitymedia's non-overlapping regional operations will establish a strong second national provider of digital infrastructure in the German market, building on Vodafone's long track record in bringing sustainable and effective choice and competition to the German consumer and enterprise markets," the company declared.
The deal, which remains subject to regulatory approvals, is expected to complete in mid-2019.