EU antitrust regulators opened on Thursday an in-depth investigation into Orange’s bid for a majority stake in Belgian cable operator VOO, warning the deal may reduce competition and increase prices in the south of the country.
Orange Belgium announced last December that it had reached a final agreement with publicly owned utility group Nethys to acquire 75% less one share of VOO, based on an enterprise value of EUR1.8 billion (USD1.83 billion). The deal would give Orange its own fixed network in the Wallonia region and part of Brussels, bolstering its strategy to provide customers with convergent fixed-mobile products.
The EC said a preliminary investigation had shown the transaction, which would reduce the number of operators from three to two in areas covered by VOO and sister company Brutele’s fixed networks, may significantly reduce competition in the markets where Orange and VOO are in competition, namely the supply of fixed broadband access, audio-visual services and multi-play bundles (including fixed-mobile convergent services). The Commission now has 90 working days, until 6 December, to make a decision on the matter.