URCA rejects CBL’s competition concerns over Liberty/CWC deal

5 May 2016

The Utilities Regulation and Competition Authority (URCA) has rejected arguments from Cable Bahamas (CBL) that changes in the ownership structure of fixed line incumbent Bahamas Telecommunications Company (BTC) will have an impact on competition. Tribune242 writes that CBL had complained that Liberty Global’s acquisition of a majority stake in BTC via its takeover of Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) would negatively impact competition, as BTC would be able to use its new parent’s scale to negotiate exclusive rights to premium pay-TV content. CBL claimed that the takeover would: ‘impede, if not preclude robust competition in the television and broadband markets in the Bahamas by effectively blocking Cable Bahamas and other licensed operators… from accessing popular content and audio visual programming.’

The cableco also expressed concerns over its access to international capacity, as the transaction would see Liberty acquire the ARCOS cable system – on which CBL is reliant for the bulk of its traffic between the Bahamas and the US – which was taken over by CWC via its acquisition of Columbus Communications in early 2015. CBL claimed that Liberty’s acquisition of CWC would strengthen ties between BTC and Columbus, giving the former ‘an even stronger motivation to use the ARCOS-1 cable to impede effective competition from Cable Bahamas and other licensed operators in the Bahamas.’

URCA rejected both of CBL’s arguments and dismissed the operator’s concerns regarding the pay-TV market as ‘highly speculative’. The watchdog also pointed out that CBL is currently the dominant provider in the segment, and had itself made use of exclusive content and programming rights. Regarding international capacity, URCA rejected CBL’s claims, noting that it had already dismissed such concerns when it had greenlit CWC’s purchase of Columbus.