Telecoms takeover talk dominates Europe's markets as Altice agrees to buy Suddenlink in a $9bn deal and Liberty Global reignites speculation of a tie-up with Vodafone. As David Pollard reports, the latest news puts cable operators very much in the sights of major mobile operators - and is unlikely to stop here.
Europe's telcos have been fighting back this year. This one of the sector's shock troops. Billionaire Patrick Drahi is the power behind French telco Altice. Under his command, it's acquired target after merger target. Last year, buying mobile carrier, SFR, and Portugal Telecom. And, reportedly, also holding talks with US giant, Time Warner. Now, it's buying cable operator Suddenlink in a nine billion dollar deal. Potentially opening up a new market. Suddenlink is the seventh-largest cable operator in the US with 1.5 million residential customers. Telcos went through years of declining fortunes. This just the latest in a wave of deals to revive and reshape an entire industry. Says IG market analyst, Alastair McCaig. SOUNDBITE (English) ALASTAIR MCCAIG, MARKET ANALYST, IG, SAYING: ''We no longer really have clear distinctions between, say, satellite firms and telecommunications firms and mobile companies and even content companies. The lines are continually getting being blurred there and I think we're likely to see more M&A in this region as the year progresses.'' And with cable very much the order of the day as telcos seek to combine mobile and broadband, Liberty Global and Vodafone are another hot topic. Liberty is Europe's largest cable operator. Chairman John Malone quoted as saying it and Vodafone would be a ''great fit''. Renewing speculation of a merger. SOUNDBITE (English) ALASTAIR MCCAIG, MARKET ANALYST, IG, SAYING: ''The commentary out of the chairman from Liberty Global undoubtedly was well-placed and under the full knowledge of what the pretty receptive investment community would make of that and it's no surprise that Vodafone are being associated with further M&A activity. This is unlikely to be the last thing we hear as far as Vodafone's concerned this year.'' Vodafone has already bought two cable operators in Europe. Liberty is present in 14 countries including Germany and Britain. And with its market cap of 45 billion dollars combining with Vodafone's 98 billion - a new industry giant would be born.