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Liberty Global, Searchlight close Choice Cable TV deal

Liberty CEO Naji Khoury

Liberty Puerto Rico President Naji Khoury

Just shy of six months after announcing its intentions, Liberty Cablevision of Puerto Rico LLC confirmed Wednesday the closing of the acquisition of Puerto Rico Cable Acquisition Company Inc., which does business on the island as Choice Cable TV.

The deal between Liberty’s parent, Liberty Global plc and its indirect minority shareholders, as well as funds managed by Searchlight Capital Partners, L.P., acquired 100 percent of Choice, for about $273 million.

The combined operations will have a workforce of approximately 1,000 employees and generate more than $390 million of annual revenue. The two providers will offer services in 75 municipalities — passing by 1 million homes around the island — and serve more than 750,000 revenue-generating units, Liberty said.

The transaction received the unanimous approval from the Puerto Rico Telecommunications Regulatory Board last month.

With this transaction now consummated, Liberty Puerto Rico will start integrating Choice into its existing operations. The Choice and Liberty Puerto Rico brands will co-exist in the market for several months as Choice’s brand, products and services are integrated into Liberty Puerto Rico’s platform.

Choice customers will begin to enjoy Liberty Puerto Rico’s wide array of video, Internet and phone services, which will be implemented and offered in several phases, Liberty officials said.

“This is a union of equals that will give both Liberty Puerto Rico and Choice customers the best of what both companies have to offer,” said Naji Khoury, president of Liberty Puerto Rico.

“Choice has always been a very efficient operation and I am certain that this union will be very beneficial not just for both companies but for Puerto Rico as well. This transaction also shows our investors’ commitment to grow on the island and to contribute to our economy. We are ready to welcome Choice’s customers and employees to our family,” he said.

“It is Liberty Puerto Rico’s intention to harmonize its product portfolio, and it is starting today by implementing the first significant change in the video lineup. Improving the TV viewing experience is a top priority during the integration process,” Khoury added.

Choice customers would feel the effects of the transaction immediately, as Liberty Puerto Rico confirmed it would be adding a selection of 18 new channels in Choice’s video lineup at no additional cost starting Wednesday.

New channels in the Choice Pak lineup include AMC, AXS TV, sports channel beIN in both English and Spanish, Cablevisión, Disney Jr., Fox Sports 1, FX, Lifetime Real Women and PBS Kids.   The Top Choice video tier will include Crime & Investigation, DIY, Esquire, Fox Sports 2, History en Español, IFC, Military History and NBA TV. These will replace all MTV, VH1 and Nickelodeon channels, Comedy Central, Spike, TV Land and Palladia HD.

Choice customers will gradually have access to other improved products and service upgrades throughout the year, including more new channels, higher Internet speeds, competitive voice, data and video bundles and advanced equipment.

These include Internet speeds of up to 120 Mbps for downloads and 4 Mbps for uploads; over 100 high definition channels, 352 channels overall; a better balance of English and Spanish language programming and bundles combining video, high-speed Internet and unlimited island wide digital telephony service at highly attractive rates.

Liberty Puerto Rico will also expand its corporate social responsibility programs into the areas covered by the Choice franchises.

New president for Liberty Latin America
In related news, Liberty Global announced Wednesday that Betzalel Sergio Kenigsztein, currently managing director for the Central and Eastern European region, has been appointed to the role of president and COO of Liberty Global’s Latin American and Caribbean Operations, effective July 1, 2015.

Betzalel will work manage Liberty’s businesses in Chile and Puerto Rico, while further developing strategic opportunities in the region.

“We are committed to growing our business in the Latin American and Caribbean region through the LiLAC tracking stock, and Betzalel brings extensive strategic and operational knowledge to this new role,” said Liberty Global’s CEO Mike Fries.

“I have worked with Betzalel for many years and have great confidence in his ability to support our world-class operations in Chile and Puerto Rico, and lead the development of new opportunities in this fast-growing region,” he said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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