Brussels clears Vodafone’s Liberty Global deal

The European Commission has cleared Vodafone’s blockbuster takeover of Liberty Global’s cable networks in Germany and eastern Europe after the UK company offered concessions to help seal approval for one of the biggest telecoms takeovers over the past decade.

European regulators on Thursday cleared the €18.4bn deal subject to conditions, a tie-up which would cement Vodafone’s position as one of Europe’s largest telecoms companies and could be key to unlocking a wave of consolidation in the sector.

Brussels antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said: “In our modern society access to affordable and good quality broadband and TV services is almost as asked for as running water.”

The EU’s key competition concerns had centred on the German market, and clearance is subject to conditions including Vodafone’s May agreement to allow rival Telefónica Deutschland wholesale access to its cable network in the country.

Brussels had been concerned that the merger would decrease competition in the German broadband market, but on Thursday said the deal to strengthen Telefónica in Germany would “replicate the competitive constraint exerted by Vodafone, which would be lost as a result of the merger.”

Vodafone shares were up 1.3 per cent in morning trading in London. Its chief executive Nick Read said the deal makes Vodafone “Europe’s largest fully-converged communications operator.”

“This is a significant step toward enabling truly digital societies for our customers,” he said.


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