Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has ruled to approve the proposed sale of United Group’s mobile telephony towers in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia to Saudi telecom infrastructure company Tawal.
Under the terms of the deal, announced in April, United Group would sell 100 per cent in its subsidiary that owns the towers for 1.22 billion euro in cash, but continue using the infrastructure under a long-term agreement.
The only objection to the proposed acquisition came from Yettel Bulgaria, one of Bulgaria’s three mobile carriers, which competes against United Group’s Vivacom.
Yettel argued that the regulator should postpone a decision until it ruled on United Group’s “de facto and de jure” acquisition of Bulgarian satellite TV provider Bulsatkom without prior notification of the CPC.
In its filing, Yettel said that the Bulsatkom acquisition included some mobile telephony towers that were “likely” being sold as part of the Tawal deal and asked for a more in-depth analysis of the impact of Tawal’s acquisition on the market.
CPC rejected Yettel’s argument, saying that as the regulator ruling on both deals, it had full access to all relevant information and there was no risk that it would issue contradictory rulings in the two cases.
United Group has owned Vivacom since 2020 and it later acquired Nova Broadcasting Group, one of Bulgaria’s two largest private television broadcasters, and several Internet service providers.
It also owns telecom, cable TV and broadcasting assets in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia.
Tawal is the telecom infrastructure subsidiary of Saudi Telecom Company, which in turn is controlled by the Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund PIF.