Deutsche Telekom: Vodafone-Liberty Global deal ‘completely unacceptable’

Deutsche Telekom CEO Timotheus Höttges has spoken out against a potential tie up between Vodafone and Liberty Global-owned Unitymedia, branding it “completely unacceptable”.

Timotheus Höttges

Speaking on the company’s fourth quarter and full year earnings call, Höttges raised concerns about market concentration in the TV market and said that a combined Vodafone and Unitymedia would dominate the German market.

“I do not see that this kind of concentration in the cable market can be supported from regulatory bodies,” he said.

“I don’t believe that Germany wants to go into a situation like Eastern European markets where TV markets are dominated by telco players.”

Höttges said that Deutsche Telekom – which had a German IPTV and satellite TV subscriber base of 3.14 million customers at the end of 2017 – would protest the deal, if it is agreed.

Earlier this month Vodafone confirmed it was in early stage discussions with Liberty Global about potentially acquiring “overlapping continental European assets”.

According to reports the discussions are focused on Liberty’s cable assets in Germany, though the two companies also have overlapping operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania.

In Germany, Liberty’s operations are run by Unitymedia, the country’s second largest cable operator with some 13.0 million service subscribers as of September 2017 across video, broadband internet, and fixed-line telephony.

Vodafone is Germany’s cable leader following its acquisition of Kabel Deutschland in 2013.

Separately, T-Mobile Austria agreed to buy Liberty Global-owned cable operator UPC Austria late last year for an enterprise value of €1.9 billion.

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