Utility may buy into Europe Online

Shareholders at Vebacom, the communications subsidiary of German utility Veba AG and Britain’s Wireless & Cable, will vote this week on the possible acquisition of a 10% stake in Europe Online, the soon-to-launch online service backed by several European publishers.

German publisher Burda is spearheading the Europe Online project, in partnership with the U.K.’s Pearson, French media group Matra-Hachette and, as of this summer, publisher Axel Springer. However, the EU has begun a preliminary investigation into the project to determine whether it violates competition law.

If the deal goes through, Pearson and Matra-Hachette will dilute their stakes to make room for Vebacom and a second, unknown partner. The German utility Veba is looking to upgrade its energy network to offer telephone services, as progressive deregulation of the industry ends the monopoly held by Deutsche Telekom.

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