The Federal Court of Australia approved a proposed AUD15 billion ($10.1 billion) merger between Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) and TPG Telecom, rejecting concerns by the country’s competition watchdog the deal would harm competition.

Indeed, the court ruled the tie-up would not substantially lessen competition in mobile services.

In late May 2019, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) opposed the proposed merger on the grounds it would likely substantially reduce competition. VHA later initiated court proceedings seeking approval.

In a statement, TPG Telecom executive chairman, David Teoh, said the company was “very pleased with the Federal Court decision and looks forward to combining with VHA to create Australia’s newest fully integrated telecommunications operator”.

VHA CEO Inaki Berroeta said the decision was a great outcome for the Australian economy, as it would allow for greater investment in next-generation networks including 5G.

“It’s been 18 months since we commenced the approval process for this merger, and we’re very keen to move forward and deliver these benefits as soon as possible. We have ambitious 5G rollout plans, and the more quickly the merger can proceed, the faster we can deliver better competitive outcomes for Australian consumers and businesses,” he said.

The companies said they are working together to secure approvals to complete the merger as soon as possible and anticipate a close by mid-year.

ACCC chair Rod Sims stated: “We stand by our decision to oppose this merger. If the ACCC won 100 per cent of the cases we took, it would be a sign we weren’t doing our job properly, by only picking safe cases and not standing up for what we believe in.”