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FNE clears joint venture between Liberty Global and America Movil’s subsidiaries in Chile subject spectrum and digital satellite TV business divestitures, as well as spectrum usage obligations

05 / 10 / 2022

The Chilean Competition Agency (Fiscalía Nacional Economica or FNE) cleared, conditioned to remedies, a concentration between Liberty Global and America Movil, regarding their local telecom activities. In Chile, they provide services through VTR and Claro, respectively.

The transaction consists of a joint venture between VTR and Claro for the provision of fixed and mobile services, where the FNE discarded that the transaction would raise antitrust concerns at a retail level.

In particular, on internet services, the agency’s scrutiny concluded that the joint venture would be constrained by the competitive pressure exerted by both incumbents and recent entrants, who also have a technological advantage vis-à-vis the merging parties due to fiber deployment, as well as significant expansion plans.

Regarding pay TV, the FNE verified there are other relevant operators that would also exert competitive pressure to the joint venture, as well as new platforms, such as streaming TV and over-the-top platforms, which would increasingly constrain the parties in the future.

However, the merging parties would concentrate a relevant portion of spectrum, particularly in the mid-band (3.5 GHz) and in the mid-low-band (AWS). In particular, since the amount of spectrum to be allocated to be JV as a result of the transaction would surpass any ideal benchmark, the FNE raised the concern that the parties would eventually incur in anticompetitive spectrum hoarding, to the detriment of consumers.

To address such concerns VTR and Claro offered the FNE to divest 10MHz in the 3.5 GHz band and 10MHz in the AWS band. The parties also offered to comply with usage obligations, to promote the effective and efficient use of the spectrum to be acquired. The FNE considered the remedies package to be effective, proportional and suitable to prevent the merger from substantially lessening competition.

Additionally, the FNE raised the concern that the joint venture could eventually breach a previous merger antitrust order (Resolution 1/2004, issued by the Competition Court in Chile) which prohibited Liberty Global and its subsidiary VTR from participating in the digital satellite TV business in Chile. In compliance with this ruling, the parties offered to transfer the assets of Claro’s direct-to-home (DTH) business to a trustee, who will oversee the business’ divestiture to an independent third party.

The parties

Liberty is an international holding company active in telecommunications services. In Chile, it operates through VTR in retail fixed services, such as internet, television and telephony, and in retail mobile services, as well as corporate services and other segments. América Móvil is part of a Mexican business group also in telecommunications services. In Chile it operates through Claro in retail fixed services (internet, television and telephony), retail and wholesale mobile services, corporate services, wholesale offer of data transport links, among others.