UK watchdog to review Liberty Global, Telefonica deal - source

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Telefonica is seen on company's headquarters in Bogota, Colombia May 28, 2019. REUTERS/Luisa Gonzalez/File Photo

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - UK competition watchdog CMA is set to take over the review of Liberty Global and Telefonica’s plan to merge their British businesses, with EU antitrust regulators ceding the case to them, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The U.S. cable operator and Spanish telecoms provider want to better compete with market leader BT with the $38 billion deal combining Virgin Media and O2.

They sought European Commission approval on Sept. 30 while CMA requested to take over the review on Oct. 8 because of the deal’s impact in Britain and after Brexit.

The EU competition enforcer, which has a Nov. 19 deadline for its preliminary scrutiny, declined to comment. It has, in the past, preferred to examine telecom cases rather than cede them to national watchdogs to maintain a harmonised policy across the 27-country bloc.

“We remain in constructive dialogue with all relevant stakeholders at the EU and CMA and continue to work to the timeline of completing the deal mid-next year,” the companies said in a joint statement.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Bernadette Baum and Jason Neely