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Fries: VodafoneZiggo ruling is ‘nuisance’ but deal likely to be cleared

Vodafone ZiggoThe European General Court’s ruling annulling Liberty Global and Vodafone-Ziggo’s joint venture in the Netherlands is “more of a nuisance” than a major blow for Liberty Global, according to the company’s president and CEO Mike Fries. Fries said he was “pretty confident” the deal would be cleared “in due course”.

The ruling means that the European Commission has to re-examine its original approval of the VodafoneZiggo JV to take account of the court’s finding that it didn’t provide a proper analysis of the impact of the deal on the premium sports market.

Fries said that both Telenet and VodafoneZiggo had shown that synergies from fixed-mobile convergence were “real” and “probably bigger than we thought”. He said that fixed-mobile convergence and a quad-play bundle were “huge drivers of growth and value creation”. However, he said, a standalone mobile offering that is not converged was “challenging”, given the competitive nature of that business and regulatory headwinds.

Speaking about regulation more broadly, Fries said that “battle lines” were being drawn over the implementation of the EC’s new electronic communications code and in particular over how much authority would be vested in national regulators to interpret the rules.

Fries said that Liberty was “totally aligned with the EU Commission” and with other telcos in viewing existing regulations as sufficient, but wonted that the European Parliament and Council were “grappling with their own interpretations” of the code.