John Malone’s Liberty Global acquired Kabel BW in 2011, and the purchase was approved by Germany’s anti-trust regulator. Liberty Global then merged Kabel BW with Germany’s second-largest cabler, UnityMedia, which it also owned.
The regional court in Duesseldorf has now overturned the regulator’s decision, following a challenge by Deutsche Telekom. The court ruled that UnityMedia-Kabel BW would have a dominant position in the market, and concessions made by Liberty Global did not go far enough.
Liberty Global will appeal the decision at the federal level. If that appeal fails the merger of Kabel BW and UnityMedia would be unwound.
The move is a set-back for those hoping for consolidation in this lucrative, but highly fragmented market.
In June, the U.K.’s Vodafone closed a deal to buy Germany’s leading cabler Kabel Deutschland for Euros 7.7 billion ($10.2 billion). Deutsche Telekom may now challenge that deal too.