The European Commission has approved the proposed acquisition by Vodafone of Liberty Global's cable business in Czechia, Germany, Hungary and Romania.
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The approval is conditional on full compliance with a commitments package offered by Vodafone.
During its in-depth investigation, the Commission gathered extensive information and received feedback from customers, suppliers and competitors of the merging companies, as well as from other stakeholders.
To address the Commission's competition concerns, Vodafone offered the following commitments:
To provide a remedy taker – already identified by Vodafone as Telefónica – with access to the merged entity's cable network in Germany.
This commitment would enable the remedy taker to replicate the competitive constraint exerted by Vodafone, which would be lost as a result of the merger, and to compete more effectively in the provision of fixed broadband services in Germany.
In addition, the remedy would allow the remedy taker to offer TV services.
The monitoring of this commitment will benefit from the advisory role of BNetzA, the German telecommunications regulator, in particular with regard to the German regulatory framework for telecommunications.
To refrain from contractually restricting, directly or indirectly, the possibility for broadcasters that are carried on the merged entity's TV platform to also distribute their content via an OTT service.
This commitment counterbalances the increased market power of the merged entity vis-à-vis TV broadcasters and eliminates the concern that the merged entity could hinder the broadcasters' ability to provide additional, innovative services through OTT services.
Not to increase the feed-in fees paid by Free-to-Air broadcasters for the transmission of their linear TV channels via Vodafone's cable network in Germany by extending the existing agreements (or, where needed, by entering into new agreements).
This commitment addresses the concern related to the merged entity's ability to reduce the breadth and the quality of the Free-to-Air TV offer to retail customers.
To continue to carry the HbbTV signal of Free-to-Air broadcasters, which allows TV customers to be directly connected to the broadcasters' interactive services.
This commitment eliminates the concern that the merged entity could hinder the broadcasters' ability to provide additional and innovative services through HbbTV signal.
The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction, as modified by the commitments, would no longer raise competition concerns.
This decision is conditional upon the full compliance with the commitments. ■