EC launches in-depth probe of Orange-Voo/Brutélé acquisition

The European Commission has opened an in-depth competition probe into the proposed acquisition of Belgian cable operators Voo and Brutélé by Orange.

The EC said it was concerned that the deal may reduce competition in the retail markets for the supply of fixed internet services, audio-visual services and multi-play bundles including fixed-mobile convergent services) in parts of Belgium.

Executive vice-president Margrethe Vestager, in charge for competition policy, said: “Access to affordable and high-quality Internet and TV services comes with choice. Orange has been a successful challenger to Voo/Brutele’s telecommunication services in parts of Belgium. With our in-depth investigation, we want to make sure that the acquisition of Voo/Brutele by Orange does not lead to higher prices or less quality for customers in Wallonia and parts of Brussels.”

The EC’s preliminary investigation found that the deal may significantly reduce competition in the markets where Orange, Voo and Brutélé are close competitors, namely fixed internet access, TV and multi-play bundles including FMC bundles.

The Commission said that the merger would reduce the number of operators from three to two in areas covered by VOO and Brutélé’s own fixed networks, could stimulate coordination between the firms’ remaining competitors, increase the merged entity’s bargaining power in the wholesale acquisition of TV channels, and may impact the deployment of third-party mobile networks.

The Commission now has 90 working days to take a decision.

Orange Belgium announced in January that it had struck an agreement with Nethys to acquire 75% minus one share in Voo, which owns the cable network in the Walloon region and part of the Brussels region and offers fixed and mobile services, along with broadband and pay TV.

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