EU antitrust regulators will start a full-scale probe into Vodafone’s decision to buy Liberty Global’s assets in Germany and east Europe as the $21.8 billion deal may reduce competition in Germany and the Czech Republic.
The deal with cable businessman John Malone’s Liberty would enable Vodafone, the world’s second-largest mobile operator, to compete more effectively with Deutsche Telekom in the German rival’s home market, Reuters reported.
Vodafone, which is struggling to enhance revenue from its core mobile business, aims to enhance its reach in broadband, cable and mobile services elsewhere in Europe as it includes Liberty Global assets in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.
The European Commission said some rivals might be shut out of the Czech market, where Vodafone offers mainly mobile telephony services and Liberty Global offers fixed services.
In Germany, the deal might reduce competition in the retail fixed telecoms markets and retail TV markets, curb investments in next-generation networks and give the merged firm more power as a TV broadcaster, the EU competition enforcer said.
It saw no issues in Romania and Hungary and said it will decide whether to clear the deal by May 2. The deadline can be extended if Vodafone offers concessions, the report said.
Vodafone said it still expected EU approval by mid-2019.
The telecoms industry is hoping for a lighter regulatory touch from the Commission after it cleared Deutsche Telekom’s bid to acquire Tele2’s Dutch business — without putting any stringent conditions.
Telefonica, which has asked regulators to block the deal, said it expected Vodafone to make effort to avert the negative effects singled out by the Commission.