--The European Commission has referred the merger of U.K. operations of Liberty Global and Telefonica to the U.K.'s Competition and Markets Authority.
--The CMA is targeting Feb. 1, 2021 for an initial decision
--Liberty Global and Telefonica have requested a fast-track phase 2 investigation in the U.K.
By Mauro Orru
The European Commission said Thursday that it has referred a proposed merger of the U.K. operations of John Malone's Liberty Global PLC and Telefonica SA to Britain's Competition and Markets Authority.
The decision comes after a request from the CMA for the referral of the proposed deal, which would combine Liberty Global's Virgin Media and Telefonica's O2, creating a telecoms giant worth nearly $39 billion.
The CMA, which is targeting Feb. 1 for an initial decision on the deal, previously warned of competition concerns in the markets for retail, wholesale mobile services and the market for leased lines in the U.K.
A representative for Liberty Global and Telefonica said "the parties have requested the CMA to start a 'fast-track' Phase 2 in the UK. We have been in close contact with the CMA and Ofcom throughout this process and are confident the transition will be seamless. Our view remains that this transaction is pro-competitive and we continue to expect closing around the middle of next year."
The Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said the referral would enable the CMA to deal with the case under U.K. national law as the country's transition period with the European Union comes to an end at the end of December.
"The CMA claimed that it would be well placed to review the transaction in view of the upcoming expiry of the transition period," the Commission said.
Write to Mauro Orru at firstname.lastname@example.org; @MauroOrru94
(END) Dow Jones Newswires