On July 18, 2019, the Commission conditionally approved Vodafone’s acquisition of Liberty Global’s cable networks business in Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Germany, following a Phase II review.[1] This case is the latest in a wave of consolidation across the EEA’s telecommunications sector (such as Liberty Global/Ziggo, Vodafone/Liberty Global/Dutch JV, and Altice/PT Portugal).[2]

The Commission identified horizontal concerns in the retail supply of fixed broadband services in Germany. The cable networks of Vodafone and Liberty did not overlap geographically, but Vodafone had wholesale cable access to Deutsche Telekom’s network in Germany, which enabled it to supply fixed broadband services in the same areas as Liberty’s Unitymedia.

To address the Commission’s concerns, Vodafone agreed to a fix-it-first remedy, offering cable access to the merged entity’s network in Germany to Telefónica DE on a long-term basis. Telefónica DE will be able to market broadband services over the combined Vodafone and Unitymedia cable network in Germany, and become a strong competitor to the merged entity. While fix-it-first remedies are typically used only sporadically, there has been a clear uptick in their deployment under Commissioner Vestager (e.g., Valeo/FTE Group, AB InBev/SABMiller, Boehringer Ingelheim/Sanofi Animal Health Business, Hutchison 3G Italy/Wind/JV, and Liberty Global/BASE).[3]

[1]      Vodafone/Certain Liberty Global Assets (Case COMP/M.8864), decision not yet published.

[2]      Liberty Global/Ziggo (Case COMP/M.7000), Commission decision of May 30, 2018; Vodafone/Liberty Global/Dutch JV (Case COMP/M.7978), Commission decision of August 3, 2016; and Altice/PT Portugal (Case COMP/M.7499), Commission decision of April 20, 2015.

[3]      Valeo/FTE Group (Case COMP/M.8102), Commission decision of October 13, 2017; AB InBev/SABMiller (Case COMP/M.7881), Commission decision of May 24, 2016; Boehringer Ingelheim/Sanofi Animal Health Business (Case COMP/M.7917), Commission decision of November 9, 2016; Hutchison 3G Italy/Wind/JV (Case COMP/M.7758), Commission decision of September 1, 2016; and Liberty Global/BASE (Case COMP/M.7637), Commission decision of February 4, 2016.