Orange’s Belgian deal set for full-scale EU probe -source

Orange’s Belgian deal set for full-scale EU probe -source

French telecoms provider Orange’s (ORAN.PA) bid for a majority stake in Belgian peer VOO SA will face a full-scale investigation by EU antitrust regulators, a person familiar with the matter said on Wednesday, which Orange subsequently confirmed.

The planned acquisition of 75% of VOO valuing the company at 1.8 billion euros ($1.82 billion) and announced in November underscores Orange’s strategy of offering “onvergent offers” in both broadband and mobile to customers in all European countries.

In recent years the telecoms sector has seen operators embark on packages encompassing both broadband and mobile to entice users and grab market share.

The European Commission’s preliminary scrutiny of the deal ends on Thursday, which will immediately trigger a four-month investigation because Orange did not provide concessions to address its concerns, the person said.

Orange said: “The opening of this phase is a new step during which we will have the time and the opportunity to demonstrate to the Commission that this transaction is beneficial for the sector and will make it possible to sustainably strengthen competition throughout Belgium.”

The Commission declined to comment.

The VOO deal would give Orange control over the cable network in Belgium’s French-speaking Wallonia region and part of the Brussels area, pitting it against rival Telenet (TNET.BR).

The French company’s Belgian unit Orange Belgium (OBEL.BR) owns its cellular network, but has costly contracts with rivals in order to offer broadband services on top of mobile contracts.

($1 = 0.9866 euros)