The Authority concluded the two companies operate in largely separate areas with BT strong in the supply of voice, broadband and pay-TV and EE in mobile telephony.
One area of concern is the supply of wholesale mobile services – EE is the MVNO provider to Virgin Media – but the Authority found that the merger is not expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) in any market in the UK.
John Wotton, Inquiry Chair said: “We recognise that this is a merger which is important to many consumers and businesses. We have heard a number of concerns from competitors. After a detailed investigation, our provisional view is that these concerns will not translate into a competition problem in practice.
“We provisionally think that the retail mobile market in the UK, with four main mobile providers and a substantial number of smaller operators, is competitive. As BT is a smaller operator in mobile, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect on competition. By the same token, it is unlikely that the merger will have a significant effect on competition in the retail broadband market, where EE is only a minor player.”
Ten areas of concern were considered by the Authority, there was a unanimous view in finding no issues in all but one, the exception being mobile wholesale. Here the Authority was evenly divided, but rules on an SLC require a two-thirds majority, so this too was passed.
The CMA has extended the deadline for its final report by eight weeks to 18 January 2016.
BT is to pay £12.5 billion for the Deutsche Telekom-Orange JV that is the biggest mobile telephony company in the UK. It currently holds 31 million customers including 24.5 direct mobile customers and 834,000 fixed broadband customers.