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MEDIA

Unitymedia buy expands Liberty Global in Europe

US giant Liberty Global announced on Friday a further expansion of its European presence with the acquisition of Germany's Unitymedia, Europe's third-biggest broadband cable operator.

Unitymedia buy expands Liberty Global in Europe
Photo: DPA

LGI said it is paying €2 billion for Unitymedia, which has €1.5 billion in debts, valuing the transaction at €3.5 billion.

Liberty Global, part-owned by media mogul John Malone, was formed by the 2005 merger of Europe’s then-largest cable operator, UnitedGlobalCom, and Malone’s Liberty Media International.

“The addition of Unitymedia not only enhances our European presence, but adds significant scale to our global operations, as our footprint, including Unitymedia, will exceed 40 million homes,” LGI head Mike Fries said.

The takeover is expected to be completed during the first half of 2010, pending regulatory approval, Unitymedia said in a statement. It is currently majority-owned by private equity firms BC Partners and Apollo Management.

On September 30, LGI’s networks served around 17 million customers across 14 countries principally located in Europe, Japan, Chile, and Australia. Its brands include UPC and Telenet in Europe, VTR in the Americas and J:COM in the Asia-Pacific region.

Unitymedia is the largest cable television operator in the German states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Hesse, which are among the most prosperous and densely populated regions in Germany and Europe.

Its cable footprint, passing approximately 8.8 million homes, covers ten of the 20 largest cities in Germany, including Cologne, Duesseldorf and Frankfurt.

The firm was created by the merger in 2005 of cable operators Ish in North Rhine-Westphalia and Iesy in Hesse, into which were also integrated the activities of Telecolumbus West.

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JEWISH

German newspaper Bild prints cut-out kippa to fight anti-Semitism

German daily Bild published a cut-out-and-use kippa on Monday in a bid to fight rising anti-Semitism, after Jews were warned about the potential dangers of wearing the traditional skullcap in Germany.

German newspaper Bild prints cut-out kippa to fight anti-Semitism
A man wearing a kippa in Hesse. Photo: DPA

Over the weekend, Felix Klein, the German government's commissioner on anti-Semitism, said he “cannot advise Jews to wear the kippa everywhere all the time in Germany”, in an interview given to the Funke regional press group.

READ ALSO: 'Shocked' Israel president says Jews are unsafe in Germany

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin voiced shock at Klein's warning and said it was a “capitulation to anti-Semitism” and evidence that Jews are unsafe in Germany.

Bild, Germany's top-selling daily newspaper, waded into the debate, calling on readers to “stand in solidarity with (their) Jewish neighbours” by making “their own kippa”, bearing the star of David, to “raise the flag against anti-Semitism”.

Rejecting the warning to leave off the kippa “seven decades after the Holocaust”, Bild's chief editor Julian Reichelt wrote: “There is only one answer to that: No, it cannot be the case!

“If that is so, then we have failed in the face of our history,” he said.

Urging readers to cut out the skullcap and wear it, Reichelt stressed that “the kippa belongs to Germany.”

Germany, like other western countries, has watched with alarm as anti-Semitic and other racist hate speech and violence have increased in recent years while the political climate has coarsened and grown more
polarized.

Anti-Semitic crimes rose by 20 percent in Germany last year, according to Interior Ministry data which blamed nine out of 10 cases on the extreme right.

The arrival in parliament of the far-right AfD, whose leaders openly question Germany's culture of atonement for World War II atrocities, has also contributed to the change in atmosphere.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has also deplored “another form of anti-Semitism” stemming from a major asylum-seeker influx, with many coming from Muslim countries like Syria, Afghanistan or Iraq.

“That the number of anti-Semitic crimes is increasing should be a cause of great concern for all of us in Germany,” Merkel's spokesman Steffen Seibert said on Monday.

“It is the task of the state to ensure that everyone can move freely with a kippa anywhere in our country and we stand by that responsibility.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany has already issued several warnings about wearing the kippa in public.

In one prominent case last year, a 19-year-old Syrian man was convicted for assault after lashing out with his belt at an Israeli man wearing a Jewish kippa skullcap while shouting “yahudi”, Jew in Arabic.

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