Vodafone gets EC approval on Web pickup

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BRUSSELS -- British mobile giant Vodafone has been cleared to buy the Italian and Spanish broadband Internet businesses of telecoms group Tele2 for 775 million euros ($1.2 billion).

The European Commission, the EU's antitrust regulator, gave the green light to the deal on Tuesday after deciding that the only overlap between their activities lay in the retail market for fixed broadband Internet access in Italy and in Spain. However, their share in these markets is currently limited to below 10%, the commission said, so there was no danger of market dominance.

Tele2 Italy had more than 2.6 million customers as of June 30, including over 400,000 broadband subscribers. Tele2 Spain had 550,000 customers at the same date, including more than 240,000 with broadband.

The takeover means that Vodafone, the world's top mobile operator, will have broadband assets in Europe's five largest markets: Italy, Spain, Britain, Germany and France.

Last July, Vodafone and Vivendi's French mobile arm, SFR, was cleared to buy the French broadband unit of Tele2 for 355 million euros ($450 million), but only after it agreed to offer equal access to all companies in the pay TV sector.

Tele2, with headquarters in Sweden, is one of Europe's biggest alternative telecom operators and cable TV providers, with more than 30 million customers in 22 countries.

Vodafone, with 241 million global customers, said earlier this month that net income in the six months through Sept. 30 stood at 3.29 billion euros ($6.82 billion) on sales of 17 billion euros ($35 billion), compared with a year-earlier loss of 5.1 billion euros ($10.5 billion).
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