February 22, 2016 / 2:54 PM / in 2 years

Vodafone CEO talks up benefits of going Dutch with Liberty

Vodafone's Chief Executive Vittorio Colao delivers a keynote speech during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain February 22, 2016. REUTERS/Albert Gea

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The chief executive of Vodafone (VOD.L) underlined the benefits of the company’s plan to work with Liberty Global (LBTYA.O) in the Netherlands, an arrangement being closely watched by analysts and investors who hope the two firms will one day reach a wider deal.

Vodafone was in talks last year with John Malone’s Liberty about asset swaps or other tie-ups in Europe, which potentially would have enabled allow both to offer a richer package of TV, broadband and mobile in countries like Britain and Germany.

Those talks collapsed, but a more limited joint venture in the Netherlands was agreed earlier this month.

“If we work well with Liberty of course it’s much better than if we don‘t, and if we get used to our own different cultures, it is of course an enrichment and a positive,” Vittorio Colao told journalists at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona on Monday.

He said, however, that every country and every situation had to be looked at on its own merits.

Analyst Sam Dhillon at RBC Capital Markets said on Monday that Vodafone and Liberty Global should extend the joint venture model to Britain.

But he said a deal would only come after a review of BT’s (BT.L) fixed-line infrastructure arm Openreach is completed -- findings are due on Thursday -- and European regulators rule on Hutchison’s (0001.HK) purchase of Telefonica’s (TEF.MC) O2.

In the case of BT, Colao said he wanted the regulator to either recommend that the company should be split up, or instead, impose much tighter obligations on Openreach in terms of performance and price.

Vodafone recently launched fixed-line broadband using Openreach’s network.

“We are getting a decent amount of customers each month, and when we are ready we will launch our own content-rich TV offer,” Colao said, but he added the company had not yet struck the content deals it wanted.

“For the time being we have not reached an agreement with BT,” he said.

Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by Keith Weir

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