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Liberty Global and Vodafone’s $21.5 Billion Cable Deal Cleared by European Authorities

The European Commission has approved Vodafone’s $21.5 billion deal for a raft of Liberty Global assets in Europe, with conditions attached.

The commission had investigated the deal on the grounds that it could reduce competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. It concluded, however, that the deal could go ahead with conditions. These include allowing broadcasters with services on the cable platforms to distribute content via their own OTT services and refraining from hiking fees paid by broadcasters in Germany for transmission of their channels on the cable network.

“We have today approved Vodafone’s purchase of Liberty Global’s business in [the Czech Republic], Germany, Hungary and Romania subject to remedies designed to ensure that customers will continue enjoying fair prices, high-quality services and innovative products,”  Margrethe Vestager, the European antitrust commissioner, said in a statement issued Thursday.

In an agreement originally announced in May 2018, Liberty Global and Vodafone agreed to a long-expected deal for Liberty’s cable operations in Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic. Liberty Global said that with all regulatory conditions now satisfied, the deal will close by the end of this month.

“We’re pleased that the European Commission has recognized the considerable benefits that this important transaction brings to millions of consumers across Germany, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic,” said Mike Fries, Liberty Global CEO. “And it is good news for our employees in each market who will become part of a fixed-mobile national challenger with the strength and scale to take on national telco incumbents.”

Vodafone Group CEO Nick Read said the deal was “a significant step toward enabling truly digital societies for our customers.”

After the deal closes, Liberty Global’s European assets will comprise Virgin Media in the U.K.; cable assets in Belgium, Switzerland, Poland and Slovakia; and 50% of the VodafoneZiggo joint venture in the Netherlands.

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