Liberty Global and Telefonica have received the official go-ahead they needed to merge telecom giants Virgin Media and O2.
The UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA) gave the joint venture its final approval, allowing the transaction to formally close on June 1, 2021.
The merger will unite the UK’s fastest broadband network with the country’s largest mobile operator with the aim of creating a “stronger fixed and mobile competitor in the UK market”. The timing will also support the expansion of Virgin Media’s giga-ready network and O2’s 5G deployment across the country.
The venture will bring together 46 million fixed and mobile subscribers, according to Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries.
“This is a watershed moment in the history of telecommunications in the UK as we are now cleared to bring real choice where it hasn’t existed before, while investing in fibre and 5G that the UK needs to thrive”, said Liberty Global CEO Mike Fries and Telefonica CEO José Maria Alvarez-Pallete.
“We thank the CMA for conducting a thorough and efficient review. Lutz and Patricia are now set to take the reins and launch a national connectivity champion that will connect more people, ignite more businesses back to growth and power more communities for the greater good”.
O2 parent company Telefonica first announced a merger was being discussed in May 2020. Experts at CCS Insight at the time said that they expected the deal to “transform the UK telecoms landscape”.
“A combination of O2 and Virgin Media is a natural fit”, said Kester Mann, consumer and connectivity director at CCS Insight last year. “Each side gains crucial assets it severely lacks: a mobile network for Virgin and a fixed-line arm for O2”.
The approval of this merger could also mean more partnerships in the UK telecoms world.
“We think this deal will trigger a ripple effect on the UK market: Three, Sky and TalkTalk will all be assessing their positions and further deal-making can’t be ruled out”.
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