The recent wholesale deal with Telenet may help pave the way for the regulatory greenlight

Orange first agreed to acquire a 75% stake minus one share in Belgian operator VOO at the end of 2021, primarily motivated by the integration of the latter’s extensive fibre networks in Wallonia and parts of Brussels.

By mid-2022, however, the pair were still struggling to convince European regulators that the deal would not harm market competition, with regulators launching an official investigation in July.

The acquisition’s prospects were markedly improved in October, when Orange announced it had entered discussions with rival Telenet about a potential wholesale partnership.

This deal would give Telenet access to VOO and Brutélé networks in Wallonia following their acquisition by Orange, potentially alleviating some of the regulators competition concerns. As such, the regulator agreed to pause their investigation while the terms of a potential deal were hammered out.

After months of negotiations, Orange and Telenet finally signed a 15-year wholesale deal earlier this week. The agreement will give Orange access to hybrid fibre coaxial (HFC) network in Flanders and Brussels, as well as the company’s future fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network. Telenet, on the other hand, would gain access to VOO and Brutele’s HFC network and future FTTH networks.

Xavier Pichon, CEO of Orange Belgium, heralded the deal as a “major step” towards the VOO acquisition, noting that the deal would allow Telenet to grow into a nationwide fixed line competitor.

Now, the European Commission has announced that it will continue its acquisition investigation, taking into consideration the wholesale deal with Telenet and other concessions made by the operators.

A decision is now expected to be made by April 11 this year.

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