EC approves SFR broadband play


BRUSSELS -- French mobile operator SFR's planned €355 million ($450 million) takeover of the French broadband unit of Swedish pan-European telecoms operator Tele2 was cleared Wednesday by the European Commission.

But it came in return for commitments from SFR parent, media giant Vivendi, to offer equal access to all companies in the pay TV sector.

The concessions come after the commission -- the European Union's antitrust authority -- raised concerns about the deal's effect on the pay TV market, as Vivendi owns French satellite pay TV operator Canal Plus.

SFR, jointly controlled by Vivendi and Britain's Vodafone, aims to gain a foothold in France's fast-growing high-speed Internet market -- a new platform for pay TV, which already provides access to a potential four million clients -- at a time when market leader Canal Plus has just bought up rival TPS, creating a customer base of about eight million subscribers.

The EC said that, without the concessions, their combined control of Tele2 could potentially stifle rival pay TV companies and weaken other high-speed Internet operators that are currently the main rivals to Canal Plus.