Telenet, the Belgian cable operator owned by Liberty Global, said it has conditionally agreed to sell customers served by branded reseller JIM Mobile and the Mobile Vikings MVNO as part of concessions to secure European Union approval of its planned acquisition of Base Belgium.
The cable company said it has agreed to transfer over time the entire customer base of JIM Mobile and sell the 50 per cent stake owned by Base Belgium in VikingCo to Flemish broadcaster Medialaan -- but only once it has been given the go ahead to buy Base. The two deals would also see Medialaan become a "full MVNO" player on the Base network.
Medialaan and current Base Belgium parent KPN established the JIM Mobile brand in 2007 in order to meet the demands of young people for lower-cost mobile subscriptions. In 2010, Medialaan and Base signed a "branded partner" agreement that saw the broadcaster take over marketing of the JIM Mobile products, while Base remained responsible for other all aspects of the product.
Following Telenet's acquisition of Base, the branded partner agreement would still continue for some time, but Base would transfer within two years the JIM Mobile customers to Medialaan.
Medialaan would also then acquire 100 per cent of VikingCo, which is the company behind the "light MVNO" called Mobile Vikings on the Base network. The 50 per cent stake that is not held by Base Belgium is owned by a mix of investors and will also be acquired by the broadcaster. VikingCo co-founders Frank Bekkers (CEO) and Koen Desmedt (CFO) will leave the company once it has been transferred to Medialaan.
Telenet made the concessions as part of its ongoing battle to secure regulatory approval for the Base deal, especially in light of a toughening EU stance on mergers that reduce the number of mobile operators within European markets from four to three.
In October, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether the proposed acquisition would harm competition amid concerns that the transaction could lead to higher prices, less choice and fewer innovative services for customers in the Belgian market. The Commission has until Feb. 18, 2016 to make a decision.
KPN said in April it had agreed to sell Base Belgium to Telenet for €1.3 billion ($1.4 billion). The transaction would combine the market's third-largest mobile operator and largest cable operator and also mark the Dutch operator's exit from the Belgian market.
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