Germany’s federal antitrust watchdog, the Bundeskartellamt, approved Liberty Global’s €3.16 billion ($4.1 billion) acquisition of regional cabler Kabel Baden-Wuerttemberg on Thursday.
Liberty plans to merge Kabel BW with its Unitymedia, Germany’s second-biggest regional cabler, which John Malone’s company acquired in 2009 for some $5 billion.
The watchdog cleared the deal subject to conditions. In October the cartel office expressed concerns that the merger could strengthen the oligopoly in the licensing market dominated by the biggest cable operators, Kabel Deutschland, Unitymedia and Kabel BW.
To address these concerns, Liberty has agreed to commitments that would increase the competitive opportunities of other providers.
Housing associations in Unitymedia and Kabel BW areas will be granted special contract termination rights, making it possible for them to look for less expensive cable providers.
Liberty will end its encryption of digital free TV programs and forgo certain exclusivity clauses and ownership claims or rights to dismantle household cable connections, the watchdog said.
Bundeskartellamt prexy Andreas Mundt added, “This merger could only be cleared with far-reaching commitments by the companies involved. We now see the chance of more competition in the cable markets.”
Liberty’s victory comes a decade after cartel regulators nixed Malone’s plan to buy Germany’s entire cable system for $5 billion from giant Deutsche Telekom.