Not so fast: Salt mulls suing Sunrise over Liberty Global acquisition

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French billionaire Xavier Niel, who owns Salt as well as the Free brands in France and Italy, claims the deal breaches an exclusivity agreement.

Niel announced he was considering a law suit on the day UPC Switzerland, the local Liberty Global cable unit, issued its prospectus laying out the terms for its $7.4 billion (€6.2 billion) acquisition of Swiss mobile operator Sunrise Communications.

Exclusive fibre deal

Salt, another Swiss mobile company, signed an exclusive, bi-lateral agreement with Sunrise in May to jointly invest in a fibre network the better to challenge the country’s incumbent, Swisscom and UPC Switzerland.

The two pledged to invest CHF 3 billion (€2.79 billion) over the next five to seven years in fibre infrastructure.

Salt said in a statement that the deal with UPC “infringes on contractual rights”.

Sunrise’s CEO, André Krause countered that the contract with Salt excluded a public tender offer and pointed out that UPC’s offer was not sought by Sunrise.

Complicated back story

Attempts at consolidation in the Swiss market have a long and complicated history.

Last year Sunrise's attempt to acquire UPC Switzerland was thwarted by its shareholders, including the majority, German stakeholder, Freenet, over the asking price and financing arrangements. Freenet has owned 24% of Sunrise since 2016.

Salt was formerly Orange’s Swiss mobile opco, which Niel’s organisation bought in 2014.

In 2010, regulators stopped the Orange opco from merging with Sunrise.