May 16, 2019 / 6:41 AM / 8 days ago

Australia regulator blames website flaw for early reveal of TPG-Vodafone decision

FILE PHOTO: Different types of 4G, 5G and data radio relay antennas for mobile phone networks are pictured on a relay mast operated by Vodafone in Berlin, Germany April 8, 2019. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Australia’s anti-trust regulator apologized “unreservedly” for publishing confidential information about its decision to block a $10 billion merger of TPG Telecom and Vodafone’s Australian joint venture, blaming a flaw in its website.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) decision to reject the deal was uploaded to its website an hour before the market closed on May 8, catching investors unawares as they were expecting a decision on the next day.

The news sent both firms into a tailspin and shares slid across the broader sector until the market closed and the regulator published a fuller note explaining its reasons.

“Instead of the new information being treated as draft content requiring internal approval, the flaw meant the content was live,” the regulator said in a statement on Thursday.

“We apologize unreservedly for this unfortunate and serious incident,” ACCC Chief Operating Officer Rayne de Gruchy said.

He added the regulator’s technology team had fixed the software glitch, promising the incident would not be repeated.

The A$15 billion ($10 billion) deal was to combine the third and fourth-largest telcos in Australia to create a big player boasting TPG’s fiber network and Vodafone’s mobile system. The firms have said they will contest the rejection in court.

Reporting by Paulina Duran; Editing by Himani Sarkar

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