The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess Vodafone’s proposed acquisition of Liberty Global’s business in Czechia, Germany, Hungary and Romania under the EU Merger Regulation.
The Commission is concerned the takeover may reduce competition in Germany and Czechia.
“It’s important that all EU consumers have access to affordable and good quality telephone and TV services,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.
“Our in-depth investigation aims to ensure that Vodafone’s acquisition of Liberty Global’s telecommunications businesses in Czechia, Germany, Hungary and Romania will not lead to higher prices, less choice and reduced innovation in telecoms and TV services for consumers”.
In Czechia, Hungary and Romania, Vodafone is mainly active as a mobile network operator, and Liberty Global as a fixed telecommunications operator.
In Germany, Vodafone and Liberty Global operate non-overlapping coaxial cable networks, Unitymedia and the former Kabel Deutschland. Vodafone is also active in areas where Liberty Global offers cable services via wholesale access to Deutsche Telekom’s xDSL network.
The arrangement could shut some rivals out in the Czech market, the EC says, while Germany could see not only less competition in retail fixed telecom and retail TV, but also would give the merged firm more power as a broadcaster and cut network investment.
The EC saw no issues in Romania and Hungary, and plans to decide on the deal by May 2 (which could be extended if Vodafone offers concessions).