EU regulators to investigate Telia's $957 million bid for Bonnier

FILE PHOTO: A Telia sign on a building in Vilnius, Lithuania, March 30, 2019. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Swedish telecoms operator Telia’s $957 million bid for Bonnier Broadcasting may stymie rivals in Sweden and Finland and push up prices, EU antitrust regulators said on Friday as they opened a full-scale investigation into the deal.

Telia, which unveiled the deal in July last year, is following in the footsteps of other telecoms providers which have snapped up media companies to try to compete with big internet players such as Netflix and Amazon.

Bonnier’s brands include Sweden’s biggest commercial broadcaster TV4, streaming service C More and Finnish MTV. It competes with state broadcaster SVT.

The European Commission said concessions offered last month by Telia were insufficient, confirming a Reuters story.

It cited a number of concerns such as the possibility of rivals being shut out from accessing Bonnier’s TV channels.

“This could result in weakening the constraint currently exercised by competitors on Telia Company and could lead to higher prices of audio-visual services or less choice for consumers in Finland and Sweden,” the EU competition enforcer said.

It said the merged company could block rivals from accessing TV advertising space on its free-to-air and basic pay TV channels in the markets for retail mobile telecommunication, fixed internet and TV services.

Another worry was that customers from competing mobile and fixed internet providers might not get access to the merged company’s streaming application. The Commission set a Sept. 19 deadline for its decision.

Telia said it was confident of resolving the Commission’s concerns and that it expected to be able to complete the acquisition in the second half of this year.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter