The Commission on Protection of Competition (CPC) has approved Vivacom’s (Bulgarian Telecommunications Company, BTC’s) acquisition of National Unit Radio and TV Systems (NURTS) Digital, a digital terrestrial television (DTT) multiplex operator in Bulgaria, following an in-depth analysis of the deal.
As previously reported by CommsUpdate, in September 2014 Vivacom informed the CPC that it intended to acquire NURTS Digital. The NURTS Bulgaria group invested in and set up the infrastructure necessary for the distribution of DVB-T signals within the territory of Bulgaria, but its owners decided to divest the unit, due to ‘the macroeconomic situation and lack of consumer interest in the digital over-the-air signal’. In its letter of intent, Vivacom declared that it would fulfill all contractual and legal duties of NURTS Bulgaria. However, in December 2014 CPC said that the combined enterprise could have a competitive advantage in two adjacent markets, the Digital Video Broadcasting-Terrestrial (DVB-T) signals market, and the distribution of TV channels via paid platforms (i.e. satellite and internet protocol [IP]), and opened an in-depth investigation of the proposed acquisition.
The regulator’s decision comes shortly after the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg convicted Bulgaria in March 2015 of having violated competition rules during its transition from analogue to DTT broadcasting by awarding the concessions to NURTS Bulgaria and First Digital. The EC authority found that the procedure followed by Bulgaria in 2011 was based on disproportionately restrictive award conditions, leading to the exclusion of potential candidates. Following the ruling, the Bulgarian authorities are now expected to annul the two authorisations granted to NURTS Bulgaria and First Digital.