Virgin Media confirms Liberty talks

Deal could come soon, Virgin says

Virgin Media confirmed Tuesday that it’s in discussions with John Malone’s Liberty Global “concerning a possible transaction” and said “a further announcement will be made in due course.”

A deal could come today as Malone’s international television arm look set to make its biggest ever U.K. play. Virgin is the U.K.’s second largest pay TV operator after BSkyB so a sale would set the Denver-based billionaire up in Blighty against News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch.

Virgin shares, which trade on the Nasdaq, closed up 18% at $45.61 on Tuesday. It’s got a market cap of $10.4 billion.

Liberty Global shares closed down 2.3% at $67.88.

Liberty Global’s cable and telephone biz spans 13 countries, with $10 billion in revenue and 20 million customers. It operates mostly in Europe, with offshoots in Chile in Puerto Rico. Subsids include UPC in Switzerland Kabel BW and UnityMedia in Germany, Telenet of Belgium, VTR in Chile and Chello Media, the company’s European content division.

Virgin was founded by Richard Branson whose Virgin Group still owns about 3% of it.