The Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of joint control of the Austrian mobile telecommunications operator One by the French telecommunications operator France Télécom and the UK-based private equity investor Mid Europa Partners (MEP). The Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.
France Télécom is a global telecommunications operator active in various segments of the telecommunications services market. Through its wholly-owned subsidiary Orange S.A., France Télécom provides fixed and mobile telecommunication services in several European countries but not in Austria. Mid Europa Partners (MEP) is a UK-based private equity fund which focuses on Central and Eastern Europe. It controls the mobile operator Bité (active in Latvia and Lithuania), and the fixed operator Aster (active in Poland). One is the third largest provider of mobile telephony services in Austria.
The Commission's examination of the proposed transaction showed that there are no horizontal overlaps between the activities of the parties either in Austria or in their respective countries of operation. Furthermore, the proposed transaction would not raise any substantial vertical competition concerns in the markets for wholesale international roaming and fixed and mobile telecommunications in the different countries where the parties to the transaction operate.
As regards France Télécom's possible intention to integrate One into FreeMove, an international alliance for the provision of international roaming services and pan-European mobile telecommunication services, the Commission concluded that the fact that independent Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) could lose their previously preferred roaming partner in Austria would not have a significant impact on the competitive conditions of wholesale international roaming. One is a relatively small player as regards international roaming while roaming in Austria represents a small fraction of the overall roaming traffic of MNOs. In any event, operators would continue to be able to get access to roaming services in Austria through competitors of One. [21 September 07]