Armenian antitrust regulator assesses Ucom’s bid for VEON Armenia

13 Feb 2020

The State Commission for Protection of Economic Competition of the Republic of Armenia (SCPEC) has begun the process of considering Ucom’s application to take over larger rival VEON Armenia (trading as Beeline). Arka News reports that SCPEC met on 11 February to initiate discussions on the application, with chairman Gegham Gevorgyan noting that sessions are behind closed doors because of the commercial sensitivity of the subject. Gevorgyan said that the commission is discussing various aspects ‘from the share at the market to the number of customers and the change dynamics’, adding that he has tasked the Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC), the State Revenue Committee and the National Radio and Television Committee to provide all ‘appropriate information’ to fully consider the ramifications of the takeover.

Gevorgyan admitted to concerns over how the takeover could impact the domestic market, given that both Beeline and Ucom are dominant forces in the fixed and mobile segments, and said that SCPEC is keen to avoid a monopoly position developing. He did, however, suggest that the antitrust agency could ‘decide to give a partial permission for the sale, for example, excluding the fixed telephony network’, but if so, ‘both companies’ consent will be needed to conclude the deal’. One other alternative might include a condition that Ucom would have to divest ‘a part of [its] services to another operator, or to propose the companies to use some infrastructures jointly’ he said. The antitrust agency has 90 days from the submission of the application (30 December 2019) to consider the application.

As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, PSRC official Liana Azizyan confirmed that an application had been submitted in late-December and that according to the current procedure, [this] should be discussed with all competent authorities. Subsequently, a statement from VEON Ltd dated 15 January read: ‘VEON … has noted recent media comments concerning a potential sale of VEON’s business in Armenia and confirms that it has entered into discussions with Ucom LLC regarding such a potential transaction. These discussions may or may not result in a transaction. VEON will communicate material updates, if any, in accordance with regulatory requirements.’

Armenia, Ucom, VEON (formerly VimpelCom), VEON Armenia (Beeline)