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United Group gets green light for Tele2 acquisition

Tele2’s planned sale of its Croatian unit to Western Balkans service provider United Group has been approved by the country’s competition watchdog.

The Croatian Competition Agency has informed Tele2 of its decision following a Phase II investigation and ahead of giving formal approval for the sale.

Tele2 announced the sale of its Croatian business in May last year for an enterprise value of €220 million, and the competition regulator initiated a Phase II investigation in November.

Tele2 said that as part of United Group’s family of telecom and media companies, Tele2 Croatia will be able to create greater value for its customers.Tele2 now plans to focus its strategy on the Baltic Sea region.

The acquisition by United Group will take the latter into the Croatian market for the first time. The company is currently active in five markets across the Western Balkans. It owns SBB, the leading cable operator in Serbia, as well as cable operators Telemach Slovenia, Telemach Bosnia and Herzegovina and Telemach Montenegro. Its Total TV DTH service is available in all four of those countries as well as in Macedonia and also has an international service aimed at expatriates. Another unit, Net TV Plus, provides OTT TV services internationally, aimed at the former-Yugoslav diaspora.

Deutsche Telekom-owned incumbent Croatian operator T-Hrvatski Telekom has meanwhile announced that it has started to sell its stake in local service provider Optima Telekom, as mandated by the regulator. The telco, which holds a 17.4% stake in the smaller operator, was told to sell it off by the Croatian regulator in 2017. T-Hrvatski Telekom also has an agreement with Zagrebačka Banka, which holds a 36.9% stake in Optima, whereby the pair will jointly sell the latter’s shares under certain conditions.

T-Hrvatski Telekom’s acquisition of the then bankrupt Optima was approved by the competition watchdog for a limited four-year period in 2014, which was subsequently extended in 2017.

There has been speculation that United Group could be a likely acquirer of the telco, which offers voice, broadband internet and IPTV services across the country.