Poland’s cable industry once again finds itself under the spotlight.
This week’s news that the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) has cast doubt on the proposed takeover of Multimedia Polska by Vectra is significant. It also has a feeling of déjà vu, with a similar situation having existed in November 2017 when reservations were aired about an UPC/Multimedia deal.
In that instance, as we know, the Liberty Global-owned company decided to pull the plug in the knowledge it could not fully address UOKiK’s competition concerns.
Now the UOKiK has stated publicly that Vectra’s proposed takeover of Multimedia could restrict competition in the provision of pay-TV services in 21 cities and fixed internet in 29 cities. It has also given Vectra 14 days, with a possible extension of another 14, to respond to its concerns.
The options available to Vectra are now probably to offer to sell on some of Multimedia’s assets to a third party – a similar thing happened when UPC acquired Aster eight years ago – or pull the plug on the deal.
In the meantime, UPC Polska will soon find itself, along with its Slovak counterpart, one of only two remaining Liberty operations in Central and Eastern Europe. While it is certainly performing well – results published earlier this week show that it had 1,462,800 customers and 3,092,000 RGUs as of the end of Q1, with other key figures including 675,000 Horizon and 640,000 Connect Box customers – the company’s long-term future is far from clear, given Liberty Global’s gradual withdrawal from its European markets.
Expect no dramatic developments in Poland’s cable industry in the short term. However, looking further ahead important changes are almost inevitable.