23 August 2007
Dutch mobile merger cleared
On 20th August, the European Commission unconditionally cleared the acquisition of Orange Netherlands by T-Mobile. This transaction reduces the number of mobile network operators in the Netherlands from 4 to 3, and makes T-Mobile the second largest operator in the Netherlands after KPN. Based inter alia on an assessment of pricing and switching behaviour, the Commission concludes that the transaction will not impede competition on the Dutch retail market. The Commission did not consider Orange to be a driver of competition ("maverick") on the Dutch market and next to the mobile operators, many Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs) and Service Providers remain active on the Dutch market. The transaction was also considered not to change the incentives for the mobile network operators to provide access to MVNOs and Service Providers at competitive terms. The Commission's findingd are in stark contrast to its findings in the 2006 tele.ring case, a merger of mobile operators in Austria. In that case, the Commission cleared the transaction only after an in-depth Phase II investigation, subject to the disposal of a significant package of radio frequencies to smaller players in the Austrian market.RBB Economics has advised T-Mobile in the Dutch case working with lawyers Clifford Chance.