The European Commission has approved the acquisition of Liberty Global’s cable business in Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania by Vodafone.
The approval is conditional on full compliance with a commitments package offered by Vodafone to ensure that customers will continue to get “fair prices, high-quality services and innovative products”, according to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.
To remove the EU Commission’s competition concerns in the German market, Vodafone committed itself to grant its competitor Telefónica access to the merged cable network of Vodafone and Liberty Global’s subsidiary Unitymedia.
In addition, Vodafone will refrain from contractually restricting the possibility for broadcasters that are carried on the merged entity’s TV platform to also distribute their content via an OTT service.
Vodafone has also agreed not to increase the carriage fees paid by free-to-air broadcasters for the distribution of their linear TV channels via Vodafone’s cable network and to continue carrying their HbbTV signals which enable viewers to access the broadcasters’ interactive services.
“We’re pleased that the European Commission has recognised the considerable benefits that this important transaction brings to millions of consumers across Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global. “And it is good news for our employees in each market who will become part of a fixed-mobile national challenger with the strength and scale to take on national telco incumbents.”
Vodafone and Liberty Global announced the acquisition in May 2018 at a purchase price of €18.4 billion. Competitors, industry associations and the housing industry strongly criticised the plan because of competition concerns.
The transaction is now to be completed by July 31, 2019.