The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today given their final approval to the £31 billion merger

The CMA has today given their approval for the mammoth UK merger between Telefonica’s mobile operator O2 and Liberty Global’s fibre player Virgin Media. The £31 billion merger, a 50:50 joint venture, is now expected to be conclude by the start of June this year. 

The CMA took over regulatory duties related to the merger from the European Commission at the end of, after Brexit meant the deal no longer fell within the EU’s jurisdiction. The CMA immediately ordered an in-depth investigation into the merger, with critics suggesting that the combination would harm competition, especially through increasing the price of wholesale services.

Nonetheless, the CMA gave the provisional green light in April, suggesting that the move, in fact, was unlikely to reduce competition.

“A thorough analysis of the evidence gathered during our phase 2 investigation has shown that the deal is unlikely to lead to higher prices or a reduced quality of mobile services – meaning customers should continue to benefit from strong competition.” said Martin Coleman, CMA Panel Inquiry Chair at the time.

Now, the CMA has given its final approval, confirming that the deal will be free to close next month.

“This is a watershed moment in the history of telecommunications in the UK as we are now cleared to bring real choice where it hasn’t existed before, while investing in fibre and 5G that the UK needs to thrive,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, and José Maria Alvarez-Pallete, CEO of Telefonica in a joint statement. “We thank the CMA for conducting a thorough and efficient review. Lutz and Patricia are now set to take the reins and launch a national connectivity champion that will connect more people, ignite more businesses back to growth and power more communities for the greater good.”

The newly merged entity has pledged £10 billion in capex over the next five years, with focusses on  expanding their deployment of their 5G mobile network, as well as expanding their gigabit-capable home broadband footprint to reach an additional 1 million premises one year after the deal closes. In total, the company is targeting an additional 7 million homes for their fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) rollout. 

The move is set to put the newly merged company in direct competition with BT, presenting the incumbent with arguably the largest rival it has ever faced. 


How will the O2−Virgin Media merger reshape the UK’s connectivity landscape? Find out from the experts at this year’s live Connected Britain event

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