The European Commission (EC) extended its deadline to rule on the proposed merger between CK Hutchison’s 3 Italia and VimpelCom’s Wind, as the companies push to ease competition concerns over the tie-up.
EU competition regulators will now decide whether to clear the deal, which would reduce the Italian market from four to three players, by 8 September, instead of a previously set deadline of 18 August, reports Reuters, citing Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardaso.
“The extension was made by the commission with the agreement of the parties,” he said.
Earlier this week, Bloomberg reported Swisscom’s Fastweb, France’s Iliad and Digicel Group made preliminary bids (not binding) to acquire assets that could be freed up if the merger went through, and potentially facilitate the entrance of a new competitor in the country.
CK Hutchison also proposed a number of concessions to the EC designed to help create a fourth operator in Italy, including the sale of radio spectrum, equipment and roaming deals, adds Reuters.
It is also thought that the three preliminary bids have also been presented to EC Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, but it is not known whether this has influenced the EC to extend its deadline, to enable further deliberation on the deal.
The EC launched an in-depth probe into the deal, which was first announced last summer, three months ago, stating concerns that it “could lead to higher prices, less choice and reduce innovation for mobile customers”.
Concerns over the future of the deal then heightened when the EC blocked a merger in the UK, also involving Hutchison’s 3, with Telefonica’s O2 UK.
Like the proposed deal in Italy, it would have reduced the UK market to three players.