Altice complains of rivals' pressure over Media Capital takeover

LISBON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Altice said on Friday there was “undue and unfounded” pressure by rivals in Portugal on local regulators, who are due to rule on its bid for Media Capital, the owner of the country’s largest television channel, TVI.

Dutch telecoms and cable group Altice already owns Portugal’s biggest telecom operator MEO, formerly Portugal Telecom, and in July agreed to buy Media Capital from Spain’s Prisa in a 440 million euro ($521 million) deal, stirring the country’s communications landscape.

“Frankly, we were surprised with the undue and unfounded pressure on the regulators,” Altice CEO Michel Combes wrote in emailed comments sent to Reuters. He also said that Altice was confident of a positive decision “based on facts and merit”.

“Altice has full confidence in the process of the Media Capital acquisition and in Portugal’s regulating authorities,” he wrote.

Altice was responding to comments from its main rivals, NOS and Vodafone Portugal, which have called for media sector regulator ERC and the country’s competition authority to block the acquisition. They have said that it undermines competition and media plurality and could block access to information to clients of Altice’s rivals.

Altice rejects the charges and says it favours universal access to content.

NOS said the planned takeover set a worrying precedent internationally, where a country’s largest telecoms operator takes control of the biggest TV audience. TVI accounts for around one-fourth of Portugal’s viewing audience.

Last month, Portugal’s telecom market watchdog Anacom warned that the takeover could create serious obstacles to competition and harm consumers.

ERC is set to deliver its opinion next week, after which, if it is approved, the competition authority will deliberate on whether to allow or block the operation. It has the power to reject the plan or impose conditions for it to go ahead.

$1 = 0.8442 euros Editing by Jane Merriman