The European Commission (EC) opened an in-depth investigation into UAE-based operator e&’s proposed acquisition of a controlling stake in PPF Group’s telecoms assets across a number of countries, under foreign subsidy rules introduced in 2023.

Announcing the second-stage investigation, the regulator highlighted its preliminary look found sufficient indications the buying company received subsidies which could distort the European Union (EU) internal market.

Alleged subsidies comprise guarantees from the UAE and a loan from state-controlled banks directly enabling the purchase of the PPF stake.  

The EC will look into whether subsidies e& allegedly received have altered the outcome of the acquisition attempt so far by giving it the financial clout to see off other parties. It will also assess any potential negative effects on the European market moving forward.

Its investigation falls under regulations brought in for the economic bloc in July 2023 designed to prevent market distortion deriving from foreign subsidies which offer an unfair advantage over other companies operating in the region.

Operator e& announced the deal to buy a stake of 50 per cent plus one share in PPF Telecom Group in August 2023. It covers assets in Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia.

PPF’s operations in the Czech Republic were excluded.

The EC is working to a deadline of 15 October to make a judgement on the deal.