Earlier this year, Vodafone and Liberty Global admitted entering into talks. They weren't really talking about a merger, but more about some form of asset swaps between their respective cable empires. This morning the two giants ended the talks without swapping anything.
No actual deal ever got off the drawing board, it seems. Two weeks ago, Liberty Global chairman John Malone was saying that there was value to be had in the idea and they were still looking, but that they hadn't found a way by then to do something mutually successful. He called the talks something of a 'tennis match of ideas', suggesting there was lots of talking but perhaps a bit of adversarial thinking as well.
Apparently, the impasse they had reached turned out in the end to be, err, impassable. Some have suggested that it was Liberty Global's complex tax relationship with the UK that made things too hard.
The collapse of talks frees up the two companies to look elsewhere for M&A targets. Each has ambitions, both in Europe and elsewhere. I suspect the rumor mill won't take very long to come up with something.