Liberty Global won approval from the European Commission (EC) to acquire KPN’s Base, subject to conditions that “ensure effective competition” in Belgium’s mobile market.
“We have made sure that Liberty Global’s merger with Base will not reverse the trend of declining mobile prices in Belgium in recent years,” said competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager in a statement.
Liberty Global first proposed the €1.33 billion deal last April, as it looks to add additional mobile services to its existing cable subsidiary Telenet in the country (Telenet also has an MVNO business).
The EC flagged concerns that the tie-up could reduce competition in the retail mobile telephony market, where Base and Telenet currently compete.
To address competition concerns, Liberty Global committed, as expected, to terms that will help Belgian broadcaster Medialaan enter the market as a new MVNO.
Liberty Global committed to sell Base’s share in Mobile Vikings, another MVNO, as well as transfer customers from its JIM Mobile brand, to Medialaan.
It also agreed to give the broadcaster access to Base’s mobile network “at conditions that will allow Medialaan to compete effectively as a full mobile virtual network operator”.
“The remedies adequately address the Commission’s concerns since they ensure that a new mobile virtual operator will enter the retail mobile market, to compensate for the loss of competition resulting from the exit of Telenet as an independent mobile virtual network operator,” the watchdog said in a statement.
The Commission dismissed other points of concern raised by competitors that Liberty Global would be able to exclude competitors from the market by bundling fixed and mobile in one package, noting that “Telenet already offers both fixed and mobile services”, or that the deal would result in worse wholesale access conditions to MVNOs.
“The incentives for Base and Liberty Global to grant wholesale access to their network do not change with the merger,” it added.