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EC gives green light to Liberty Global-Vodafone deal

The European Commission has given a green light to Liberty Global’s sale of its German and central European operations to Vodafone.

The €19 billion deal is now expected to close on July 31. Liberty Global said that all regulatory conditions had now been met in alignment with the original terms of the deal.

The sale of its German and central European businesses, following the earlier disposal of its Austrian and DTH operations, means that the company will retain its operations in the UK, Ireland, Belgium, Poland and Slovakia, as well as Switzerland, where it is in the process of seeking approval for the sale of its unit to Sunrise. Liberty also has a 50% stakein the VodafoneZiggo JV in the Netherlands.

“We’re pleased that the European Commission has recognized the considerable benefits that this important transaction brings to millions of consumers across Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. And it is good news for our employees in each market who will become part of a fixed-mobile national challenger with the strength and scale to take on national telco incumbents,” said CEO Mike Fries.

Hannes Amsetsreiter, CEO of Vodafone Deutschland (pictured), which will gain nationwide scale after acquiring Liberty’s Unitymedia operation in North-Rhine Westphalia, Baden-Württemberg and Hesse, said that today “marks thestart of the second leg of our Gigabit journey”. He hailed the arrival of the “Gigabit Republic” with the extension of Vodafone’s high-speed network to all 16 German Federal states.

The green light from Brussels, which was widely expected, followed Vodafone’s move to open its network up to rival provider Telefónica Deutschland in May, after previously submitting a remedy package comprising the cable wholesale agreement and a commitment to ensure sufficient capacity is available for OTT TV distribution.

Vodafone’s acquisition of Unitymedia has attracted widespread opposition from other industry players in Germany, including Deutsche Telekom, rival network builders and commercial broadcasters.