As the court hearing on the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC’s) decision to oppose a proposed merger of TPG Telecom and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA) draws to a close, the judge hearing the case has reportedly suggested a decision may not be forthcoming until 2020. According to the Australian Financial Review, Justice John Eric Middleton, presiding, was cited as saying that, while he would aim to deliver his judgment before the end of 2019, ‘it is more likely the judgment will be delivered in February 2020’. Meanwhile, Justice Middleton also intimated that his decision would likely have ‘considerable implications for the Australian telecoms industry at all levels’.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in August 2018 TPG and VHA agreed a merger which would have seen the establishment of a new fully integrated telecoms provider. Under the terms of this deal Vodafone Group and Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) Limited (HTAL) would each have taken an economic interest of 25.05% in the merged entity – which would have been listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and renamed TPG Telecom Limited – with TPG shareholders owning the remaining 49.90%. However, with the ACCC having initially expressed preliminary competition concerns over the potential impact of the tie-up on both the mobile and broadband markets in December 2018, in May 2019 the regulator confirmed it was opposing it on competition grounds.