EC set to give go ahead to Liberty’s Belgian buy - Mobile World Live

EC set to give go ahead to Liberty’s Belgian buy

21 JAN 2016

The European Commission will approve cable giant Liberty Global’s €1.33 billion bid for Base, KPN’s mobile unit in Belgium, said Reuters.

Adding mobile services to Liberty Global subsidiary Telenet’s existing package will strengthen its multiplay strategy. The bid was unveiled in April last year.

Liberty agreed with the commission to sell off assets to a rival in return for gaining approval. One concern about the Liberty-Base deal was a potential reduction in competition in the retail mobile telephony market where Base and Telenet currently compete.

To address this concern, Telenet has agreed to sell to Belgian rival Medialaan, which operates TV and radio stations, all the subscribers from Base’s JIM Mobile brand and its 50 per cent stake in another brand called Mobile Viking. The idea is to raise Medialaan up to being a full-blown MVNO.

A second concern about the Liberty-Base deal was that combining the two reduces the incentive for Base to offer other virtual operators access to its mobile network. Reducing wholesale options for MVNOs would also harm competition in the retail mobile telephony market. There is no indication of how that concern has been addressed.

This is the first deal in the telecoms sector cleared by Margrethe Vestager, the commission’s competition chief, since the collapse of the Telenor-Teliasonera merger in Denmark. However, it is hard to draw much from the current approval because Liberty’s purchase of Base does not consolidate the market, unlike other deals under EC scrutiny, including CK Hutchison’s bid for Telefonica O2 in the UK.

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Richard Handford

Richard is the editor of Mobile World Live’s money channel and a contributor to the daily news service. He is an experienced technology and business journalist who previously worked as a freelancer for many publications over the last decade including...

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