UnitedGlobalCom, the holding company that already controls one of the fastest growing broadband networks in Europe, will become the most important high-speed internet player in Latin America after reportedly acquiring most of the international distribution and programming assets belonging to John Malone's Liberty Media.

According to the Wall Street Journal, United is expected to announce today that Liberty Media will end up as its largest shareholder under a complex multi-tiered transaction which the two companies are valuing at around $5.5bn. Already a shareholder, Liberty Media will see its stake in United grow to 45% and with it an important say over one of the world's biggest operators of cable and telephone communications networks with a reach into 25m homes already.

As part of the deal, United would acquire Liberty's 25% stake in the UK's Telewest Communications. That cable stake will then be folded into United Pan-Europe Communications (UPC) under an arrangement that would increase United's ownership position in UPC to 61%.

But it is in Latin America, where this powerful combination of assets will have the most immediate impact. Following the deal, United stands to control more than five million broadband homes and two million subscribers, enough of a critical mass for it group these assets into a regional holding company that may then be floated on a stock exchange.

Among the assets being handed over by Liberty include a 28% stake in Cablevision of Argentina, the largest single cable-TV operation across the entire continent with more than 1.45m customers, plus strongholds in both Puerto Rico and Mexico.