Q&A – Manuel Kohnstamm
Manuel Kohnstamm, Senior Vice President and Chief Corporate Affairs Officer, Liberty Global
1. Liberty Global has just announced its acquisition of Cable and Wireless Communications Plc, creating what has been described as 'the leading TV, broadband, and telecoms firm in Latin America and the Caribbean'. The press release talks about the growth potential in the region. Which areas are seen to offer the most growth: consumer subscribers, business to business, or an amalgam of the two?
We foresee great growth potential in both of these areas – and much more besides. There's a rapidly growing appetite from consumers in the region to receive more digital services while economic growth is triggering great results in the business to business sector. Moreover, we also see opportunities for close collaboration between our existing assets in the region – namely VTR in Chile & Liberty in Puerto Rico – with Cable & Wireless' businesses, leveraging its significant investment in submarine cable networks. It should also be remembered that this remains a fragmented marketplace, leading to opportunities for further consolidation, with the acquisition acting as a potential springboard for future M&A activity in the region.
2. What are the immediate challenges facing this new venture in terms of policy-making in the region?
More investment is needed to bring the high-quality broadband, telephony and TV services that consumers in Latin America and the Caribbean are demanding in increasing numbers. This requires in-depth, face-to-face discussions between investors and authorities across the region. Without a central legislative body, companies need to have a local presence to engage with a number of regulators, get up to speed with working with several different jurisdictions and employ people who are willing to travel extensively between markets. Building up a strong rapport with regulators throughout the region is essential and we look forward to developing these relationships, building on our experience of running successful businesses in the region in Chile & Puerto Rico.
3. LGI operates in a number of European countries so is well used to differing national concerns, but is it LGI's experience that there are great disparities between countries or are there more similarities than differences? How does LGI work across the different structures?
We offer products and services – such as superfast broadband and multiplatform TV - for which the appetite is virtually universal. Whether you're in Belgium or The Bahamas, these are things that all residents of all countries want. This helps enormously in navigating the inevitable differences one encounters from country to country.
4. The importance of connectivity is, of course, so important. The Group has submarine networks as well as connecting and giving access to networks above water. Are there plans to increase the submarine capability?
Clearly Cable & Wireless' submarine networks represent an enormously valuable asset, both to us and other broadband and telephony operations in the region. Despite our extensive experience in the broadband industry, owning submarine networks is a new line of business for us so it's too early to say how we plan to further develop these assets. But as ever, we'll look closely at all of the options.
5. Liberty Global has been a long-time member of the IIC and you were at the IIC TMF in Miami. What particular value did your experience at the IIC Telecommunications and Media Forum bring to your work and that of your colleagues?
I've always appreciated the excellent forum the IIC provides for exchanging ideas with industry peers & regulators in Europe. We are very pleased that we're now about to enjoy the same kind of opportunities with colleagues in Latin America and the Caribbean through events such as the TMF conference in Miami.
6. Can you tell us a bit about your latest public policy report – on the Value of Content?
As a significant and valued partner of many broadcasts and digital media businesses around the world, we invest a lot of money in content. Our brand new "Value of Content" report, which we commissioned from Boston Consulting Group and launched in Brussels this month, aims to explore the effects of digital disruption in the content value chain and investigate how all parties in the chain need to adapt to changing times.