Tiscali buys Liberty Surf

Italian giant snaps up France's second largest ISP -- will LineOne be next?

Italy's Tiscali bought French Internet service provider Liberty Surf Monday in a cash and stock deal valued at 900m euros (£569.5m), snapping up one of the last big prizes in the European ISP market's consolidation. Tiscali is one of Europe's four big players, the others being Germany's T-Online, France's Wanadoo and Spain's Terra Lycos.

Like Britain's Freeserve, Liberty Surf was not considered large enough to survive on its own, but its 1.1 million active users were of interest to larger companies.

Kingfisher and Europ@web, each of which owns about 36 percent of Liberty Surf, will receive 0.365 Tiscali shares for each of their Liberty Surf shares, as well as 2.13 euros cash per share, or 71m euros in cash to each company.

The amount values each Liberty Surf share at about 9.83 euros, a more than 40 percent premium on Friday's closing price of 7 euros.

All Liberty Surf shareholders will own a total of 10.04 percent of Tiscali after the deal concludes.

Liberty Surf is France's second largest ISP, after France Telecom's Wanadoo, which has 2.05 million subscribers.

Tiscali recently purchased Dutch ISP World Online, and is considered a potential buyer for LineOne, put up for sale by British Telecom and United News & Media.

Freeserve, Britain's largest ISP, succumbed to Wanadoo's charms last month, in an all-share deal valuing the company at £1.65bn, only a 10 percent premium on its share price. Still independent are Mobilcom's Freenet, Vodafone's Germany.net and Scandinavia Online.

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