Vivacom received the green light to acquire seven broadband and TV providers, despite backlash and furore from rivals who harbour concerns about competition.
The companies were NetWorx Group – comprising Networks-Bulgaria, Online Direct, TVN Distribution Bulgaria and Telko Infrastructures – and Veliko Turnovo-based TELNET Group, which comprises TELNET, TELNET Securities and STV.
TeleGeography reported, the deal makes Vivacom the largest broadband and TV provider in Bulgaria, and did not deter the country’s Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) from approving the deals.
In December 2022, the Supreme Administrative Court annulled the anti-monopoly regulator’s previous approval of Vivacom’s acquisition of NetWorx Bulgaria. The Communications Regulation Commission launched an investigation into several deals where Viacom gained control over its rivals NetWorx, TVN Distribution Bulgaria, Telko Infrastructures and indirect control over Online Direct.
Large-scale rivals A1 and Yettel protested the latest acquisitions blasting the CPC for a “blatant disregard for recent European rulings” and this will lead to “a huge concentration of market share and power in the hands of Vivacom and its owner United Group”.
Yettel parent company PPF Telecom said in a statement: “CPC decision-making has raised our concerns about its forthcoming review of the proposed acquisition of Bulsatcom’s infrastructure by Slovenia Broadband, which is 100% owned by United Group. If this proposed acquisition is approved, it would lead to a total concentration of the whole national market and infrastructure power far exceeding the normal thresholds acknowledged in all other EU markets.”
It concluded by calling on regulators to review the transactions and threatened to escalate its case to the European Commission.
In a statement sent to Developing Telecoms, Vivacom said it "firmly rejects" A1 and Yettel's accusations, and outlined how it apparently holds 31% of the fixed broadband market and 33% of the pay-TV market in Bulgaria (based on the number of subscribers). Meanwhile, A1 holds 28% and other local players have 35%, Vivacom claimed.
"The coordinated statements from A1 and Yettel are misleading and inconsistent with the CPC’s findings. Their joint attempt to include Bulsatcom as part of Vivacom’s market share is wholly inaccurate and shows evidence of collusion," said Vivacom.