A move by French entrepreneur Xavier Niel (pictured) to acquire Republic of Ireland operator eir moved a step closer after the deal was cleared by the European Commission (EC).

In a brief statement, the commission said the transaction did not raise any competition concerns because Niel “does not own any companies currently active in the telecommunications sector in Ireland.”

The merger, first announced in December 2017, will see Toohil Telecom Holdings, a Dublin-based business owned and controlled by Niel’s investment vehicle NJJ Telecom Europe and French operator Iliad, take majority control of eir.

Ownership will be split between NJJ (holding a 32.9 per cent stake), Iliad (31.6 per cent) and a minority stake will be held by current owners Anchorage Capital Group and Davidson Kempner.

The deal gives eir an enterprise value of approximately €3.5 billion, the operator said in December 2017. The merger still requires clearance from Ireland’s Minister for Communication, Climate Action and Environment and consent from Ireland’s broadcasting authority.

Eir said it held around 18 per cent of market share when the deal was first announced, with 1.1 million mobile connections. The company also offers fixed and IPTV services. Richard Moat, eir CEO, will step down after the deal completes.

Iliad, majority owned by Niel, disrupted the French market with low cost offers through its Free brand in 2012 and it is preparing a launch in Italy.