Details have final begun to emerge as to why Liberty Global has yet to close the acquisition of the Polish cable operator Aster. The deal, which was first announced last December, is still being investigated by the country’s Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK).
Rzeczpospolita and Parkiet report that the main stumbling block to Liberty acquiring Aster appears to be the situation that would arise in the city of Kraków, where Liberty’s UPC Polska would gain a competitive advantage over other operators.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, the UOKiK would apparently like to see Liberty Global sell on Aster’s cable interests in Kraków once it acquires them.
Aster, which is currently owned by Mid Europa Partners (MEP), has the majority of its subscribers in Warsaw. However, it also has between 50,000-60,000 in Kraków and also has a presence in the western city of Zielona Góra.
Although the UOKiK’s concerns are mainly focused on Kraków, it is also believed to be worried about the competitive situation in Warsaw should the deal go ahead.
UPC Polska is already the largest cable operator in Poland and would have twice as many subscribers as Vectra, its nearest competitor, if Liberty buys Aster.
Despite some concerns about the deal, Poland’s cable industry recognises the need for consolidation in order for it to compete more effectively with the likes of such players as the incumbent telco TPSA and leading DTH platform Cyfrowy Polsat.