May 9, 2019 / 10:26 AM / 7 months ago

Exclusive: Telia faces antitrust investigation of $954 mln Bonnier deal - sources

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Nordic telecoms operator Telia’s close to $1 billion bid for Bonnier Broadcasting faces a full-scale EU antitrust investigation after failing to address competition concerns, two sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

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

Telia announced the deal, worth 9.2 billion Swedish crowns ($954 million), in July last year as the company looks to expand its media business as telecoms groups spend heavily to capitalize on changing television viewing habits.

The rise of streaming services from big internet players such as Netflix and Amazon has spurred telecoms companies to follow their lead.

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

Telia offered concessions to the European Commission last month but these were not sufficient to allay regulatory worries, the sources said.

Industry sources urged regulators to extract a promise from Telia to allow distributors continued access to TV4 because of the channel’s broad offering of Swedish drama, entertainment, news and currrent affairs programs.

The fear is that Telia offers TV4 exclusively on its platform or via bundled deals for its customers.

The EU competition enforcer and Telia, which competes with Sweden’s Tele2 and Norway’s Telenor, declined to comment.

The Commission is set to announce the opening of its in-depth investigation on Friday, the sources with direct knowledge of the matter said, giving it 90 working days to examine the deal and Telia to consider potential concessions.

The deal is politically sensitive for Sweden since the government owns 37 percent of Telia and also controls Sweden’s other big traditional broadcaster, public service television network SVT.

Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Additional reporting by Helena Soderpalm in Stockholm; Editing by David Goodman

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