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German competition watchdog wants say on Vodafone-Liberty Global deal

German competition watchdog the Bundeskartellamt, together with the country’s Federal Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy, has requested the European Commission to refer Vodafone’s planned acquisition of Liberty Global’s Unitymedia unit to it on the grounds that the deal has an impact on markets in Germany.

Andreas Mundt, the Bundeskartellamt’s president, said that the acquisition by Vodafone of Unitymedia and certain of Liberty’s central European assets would “affect Germany in particular” as it “could lead to very significant changes in market conditions in cable television and telecommunications”.

Under EU rules the EC may, under certain conditions, refer European mergers to one or more member states, enabling the competition authority of that member state to conduct a review in line with national competition law.

Vodafone’s planned acquisition of Unitymedia has attracted strong opposition from a number of players in the German TV and broadband markets, including Deutsche Telekom, Telefonica Deutschland, fibre-to-the-building operator association the Bundeslverband Glasfaseranschluß (Buglas) and, most recently, alternative broadband operators association the Bundesverband Breitbandkommunikation (BREKO), whose managing director Stephan Albers argued that the deal would  “not only have a significant impact on the television market, but would also significantly affect competition in fibre expansion”.

Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries earlier this year said that the sale of its German unit would be “an incredibly positive transaction for consumers and for competition” and maintained that there was no justification for claiming that it threatens competition.