Competition authorities at the European Commission (EC) have opened a full investigation into the proposed merger between Italian telcos Wind Telecomunicazioni and 3 Italia. A statement from the EC read: ‘The Commission has concerns that the transaction could lead to higher prices, less choice and reduced innovation for mobile customers in Italy.’ It added that a reduction in the number of mobile network operators from four to three would result in less negotiating power for the country’s MVNOs. The EC’s competition watchdog has until 10 August to reach a decision on the planned deal.
VimpelCom subsidiary Wind is the third largest of Italy’s four mobile network operators in subscriber terms, while 3 Italia, which is owned by CK Hutchison of Hong Kong, is in fourth position. A tie-up between the two firms would create an entity which would leapfrog Telecom Italia and Vodafone Italy to take pole position in the country’s cellular market. A joint statement from Wind and 3 Italia defended their proposal, saying: ‘The combined business will have the scale, financial strength and a more efficient cost structure to offer Italian consumers and businesses a state-of-the-art network.’ The two firms say they will cooperate with the EC’s investigation.