Vodafone, Liberty Global win conditional EC approval for Dutch JV

Margrethe Vestager gives the green light to the Vodafone-Liberty Global JV in the Netherlands.

The European Commission (EC) cleared the proposed Dutch joint venture of Vodafone Group and Liberty Global, although final approval of the deal is subject to the divestment by Vodafone of its consumer fixed-line business in the Netherlands.

Vodafone Group and Liberty Global immediately issued a statement welcoming the EC’s decision and said they would start the process to sell Vodafone NL’s fixed-line business without delay.

The two groups noted that the sale of this business, which has 120,000 customers, had formed part of the concessions they offered to the EC in July to address competition concerns regarding the overlap between the fixed telecoms and TV activities of Vodafone NL and Liberty Global's Ziggo.

Margrethe Vestager, the commissioner in charge of competition policy, said: "I am pleased that we have been able to approve the creation of the joint venture between Vodafone and Liberty Global in the Netherlands. The commitments offered by Vodafone ensure that Dutch consumers will continue to enjoy competitive prices and good choice."

The EC also noted that it had rejected a request from the Netherlands to refer the merger to the Dutch competition authority for assessment under Dutch competition law.

Although the EC has been taking a more negative stance on telecoms mergers in recent months, it had been widely expected to approve the proposal to unite Vodafone Netherlands with cable operator Ziggo.

Crucially, the merger does not result in the elimination of a mobile operator, meaning that four mobile network operators will continue to sell competitive retail services in the Netherlands.

The merger will create the second-largest telecoms service provider in the country behind KPN, which counts 4.2 million video customers, 3.2 million broadband subscribers, 2.6 million fixed-line telephony users, and 5.3 million mobile subscribers.

Vodafone and Liberty Global have already appointed Jeroen Hoencamp as the new CEO of Vodafone NL from Sept. 1. This means that Hoencamp will also head up the new combined entity.

For more:
- see this EC release

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