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O2 and Virgin Media mega merger probed by watchdog

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The mega merger between O2 and Virgin Media will be probed by the Competitions and Markets Authority.

In May, Telefónica, the Spanish owner of O2, announced a merger deal with Virgin Media owner, Liberty Global, which would create one of the UK’s largest telecoms firms to rival BT and Sky.

The move, which would be a 50:50 joint venture, is subject to regulatory approval and the media giants initially expected the transaction to complete around the summer of 2021.

While there’s been a bit of back and forth between the European Commission and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) over which body takes charge of the investigation, it has now been confirmed that the CMA is set to probe the merger.

O2 and Virgin have requested a ‘fast track’ process of the investigation straight to ‘phase two’, missing the initial ‘phase one’ inquiry.

In most merger cases, a phase one investigation is needed to determine whether a deal can be cleared or whether further scrutiny is required. Merging companies can ask for the CMA to move to phase two where it’s clear from an early stage that the deal requires an in-depth investigation.

The CMA said it expects to accept this request unless it receives any valid objections.

Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA, said: “We welcome the European Commission’s decision to transfer the proposed deal between Virgin and O2 to the CMA for investigation.

“These are incredibly important UK markets, that continue to evolve, and the deal needs to be carefully reviewed to make sure that consumers are protected.

“We have worked closely with the European Commission so far and we will build on the work that has already been carried out to make sure that the case can be investigated as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

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