Liberty Global’s UPC Polska has finally been given the go ahead to buy Aster, Poland’s fourth largest cable operator. However, the competition authority UOKiK has made the deal, which was first announced last December, conditional on UPC selling some of its assets.
In a statement, the UOKiK says that it has come to the conclusion that UPC Polska and Aster already hold dominant positions in the pay-TV sectors in Warsaw and Kraków, claiming a combined market shares of between 50-60% in both cities.
In the authority’s view, any share above 40% places a company a dominant position.
As a result, the UOKiK has decided to approve the deal providing UPC Polska sells parts of the network previously owned by Aster, serving buildings that could receive services from either operator, in the two cities within 18 months of completion of the deal.
UPC Polska will only be allowed to sell to companies unconnected to itself.
Following Aster’s acquisition by UPC Polska, the former’s subscribers will still have the right to choose another provider without suffering any negative consequences.
UPC Polska will also have to guarantee continuity for subscribers during the sale of Aster’s assets.
The acquisition of Aster by UPC Polska is the first major deal in Polish cable for some time and will strengthen UPC Polska’s position as the number one operator.
Had it gone ahead without any pre-conditions, the Liberty Global-backed company would have ended up with between 1.4-1.5 million subscribers, or around twice as many as its nearest competitor Vectra.
Aster has a presence in Warsaw, Kraków and the western Polish city of Zielona Góra