European Commission clears acquisition of Bulgaria’s Vivacom by United Group

The European Commission has approved, under the EU Merger Regulation, the acquisition of sole control of the whole of Viva Telecom Bulgaria OOD and its subsidiary, the Bulgarian Telecommunications Company EAD (together referred to as “BTC”) of Bulgaria by United Group BV of the Netherlands, the Commission said on April 6.

United Group, a telecoms and media company, had said on November 7 that it had agreed to buy Vivacom, one of Bulgaria’s three major telecom operators, for an undisclosed amount. Vivacom was the state-owned fixed-line monopoly Bulgarian Telecommunications Company prior to its privatisation in 2004.

The European Commission noted that BTC, as it referred to it in its statement, provides fixed and mobile telecommunication services, broadband internet and TV distribution services, while United Group is active in the provision of media and telecommunication services in South East Europe.

“The Commission found that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns given the very limited increase in the merged entity’s market position and the presence of several other players in the market of retail supply of Pay-TV services (via internet) in Bulgaria.”

The Commission also found that the vertical links between the upstream markets for wholesale mobile and fixed call termination services and the downstream markets for retail mobile and fixed telecommunications services arising from the transaction would not be problematic.

“Therefore, the Commission concluded that the proposed transaction would raise no competition concerns,” the statement said.

The transaction was examined under the normal merger review procedure.

At the time the deal was announced, it was the second major transaction involving one of Bulgaria’s mobile carriers in recent months, after Norway’s Telenor sold its Central and Eastern European telecommunications business, which included Telenor Bulgaria, to Czech investment conglomerate PPF Group for 2.8 billion euro in March 2018.

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