The European Commission (EC) has announced it has granted approval for the proposed acquisition of the Austrian mobile subsidiary of France Telecom-Orange by Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa. However, the Commission has confirmed that the deal will be conditional upon the implementation of a ‘commitments package that will facilitate the entry of new players into the Austrian mobile telecommunications market’.
In outlining its decision, the EC noted that it had concerns that the merger of Orange Austria and Hutchison’s own local mobile unit, Hutchison 3G Austria (H3G), could have led to more limited competition in the sector, and higher prices, both of which would have impacted end users. With a view to negating such issues, the press release issued by the Commission confirmed that H3G had submitted a package of commitments, including the commitment to divest radio spectrum and additional rights to an interested new entrant in the Austrian mobile telephony market. Further, H3G said that it would commit to providing, on agreed terms, wholesale access to its network for up to 30% of its capacity to up to 16 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the coming ten years, with an up-front commitment ensuring that H3G will not complete the Orange acquisition before it has entered into such a wholesale access agreement with one MVNO. In light of such pledges, the EC concluded that the transaction would ‘no longer raise competition concerns’, though it has noted that its decision is conditional upon H3G’s full compliance with the commitments.