Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Vodafone Gets EU Nod for Liberty Global Deal in Netherlands

  • EU says divestment will allay competition concerns over deal
  • Joint venture will challenge Dutch market leader KPN

Vodafone Group Plc won the European Commission’s approval to combine with Liberty Global Plc’s unit in the Netherlands after offering to sell its fixed-line network in the country.

The network sale will allow the purchaser of the Dutch assets to play a competitive role similar to that of Vodafone today, the European Union regulator said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.

“The commitments offered by Vodafone ensure that Dutch consumers will continue to enjoy competitive prices and good choice,” said Margrethe Vestager, the EU antitrust commissioner.

The combination would create a business with more than 5 million mobile subscribers, 4 million video clients and 3 million broadband customers. Dutch market leader Royal KPN NV has thus far been the only local provider with a similar combination of services on its own network.

Market Overlaps

Liberty Global and Vodafone announced their joint-venture plan in February. More than a year earlier, Newbury, England-based Vodafone was weighing a tie-up with Liberty Global to create a phone-Internet-TV company across Europe, people with knowledge of the matter said at the time.

The commission said it had concerns that the deal, as initially proposed, would have eliminated benefits brought to the Dutch telecoms market by Vodafone’s recent entry.

The commitments “address any concerns regarding the overlap between the fixed telecoms and TV activities of Vodafone and Ziggo in the Netherlands,” the companies said in a statement, referring to Liberty Global’s Dutch brand. “Having already received a number of expressions of interest, the parties will now proceed with the sale process.”

“Vodafone Netherlands’ consumer fixed business has a customer base of more than 120,000 with a high triple-play penetration rate,” according to the statement. “The divestment could potentially also include MVNO access subject to agreement on commercial terms.”

MVNOs, or mobile virtual network operators, are service providers that don’t own their own wireless networks.

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