BRUSSELS, April 20 (Reuters) - EU regulators has cleared telecom group Altice’s planned 7.4 billion euro ($7.9 billion) purchase of the Portuguese assets of Brazil’s Grupo Oi subject to the condition that Altice sells its current Portuguese businesses.
The European Commission, which rules on antitrust issues in the European Union, said on Monday it had been concerned that the merged entity would have faced insufficient competition for fixed telecom, potentially resulting in higher prices.
Altice operates two subsidiaries in Portugal, Cabovisao and ONI, the former offering pay TV, Internet and fixed telephony to residential customers, the latter services to businesses. Altice has offered to sell both.
“The Commission concluded that the transaction, as modified by the commitments, would raise no competition concerns,” the Commission said.
The Commission said it had also rejected a request to refer the examination of the deal to the Portuguese competition authority.
Altice’s founder, Franco-Israeli telecoms entrepreneur Patrick Drahi, has expanded his portfolio of cable and mobile telecoms companies in France, Israel and the Dominican Republic in recent years, culminating in deals worth some $30 billion last year.
For Oi, the sale marks the effective unwinding of an ill-fated merger with Portugal Telecom, which was meant to create a major transatlantic operator in the Portuguese-speaking world with over 100 million clients.
It hit the rocks last year when the Portuguese side lost hundreds of millions of euros in the country’s Espirito Santo banking scandal. ($1 = 0.9323 euros) (Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop, editing by Robert-Jan Bartunek)