EU to Bless Liberty Deal for KPN Belgian Biz – Report

European Union (EU) authorities are set to approve Liberty Global's €1.325 billion ($1.44 billion) takeover of KPN mobile subsidiary BASE, according to a Reuters report that cites two sources familiar with the matter.

Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) has agreed to give up some BASE assets in exchange for regulatory approval, according to the Reuters report.

That would entail selling BASE's JIM Mobile brand and its 50% stake in Mobile Viking, another mobile brand, to a Belgian player called Medialaan, which would become an MVNO on the BASE network.

Liberty Global, which operates cable networks in a number of European markets, announced plans to acquire BASE in April last year. (See Telenet Buys KPN's BASE in $1.4B Deal.)

By merging BASE with its Telenet fixed-line business, Liberty Global would be able to create a stronger rival to incumbent operator Proximus (formerly Belgacom) amid growing interest in quad-play deals, which bundle fixed voice, broadband, mobile and TV services in a single package.

Liberty Global currently provides mobile services through an MVNO arrangement with Orange (NYSE: FTE), Belgium's second-biggest mobile operator, but said it was eager to secure "long-term mobile access conditions" when announcing the BASE deal back in April.

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The company is under pressure to beef up its mobile operations in several European markets where rivals are heavily promoting quad-play deals.

Last year it held talks about exchanging assets with UK-based Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD), which has been acquiring fixed-line networks in its own integrated-services move.

Those eventually proved fruitless, although Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao has hinted the door remains open to future negotiations with Liberty Global. (See Vodafone Rules Out Emerging-Markets Spin-Off, Vodafone in Asset-Swap Talks With Liberty and Liberty Global Keen on Vodafone Tie-Up – Report.)

EU authorities recently blocked a mobile merger in Denmark, which would have led to a reduction in the number of competitors, but may feel more comfortable with the deal between Liberty Global and KPN, which simply unites a fixed-line player and a mobile one.

Having already sold its E-Plus Service GmbH & Co. KG subsidiary in Germany, KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) will be left with no major telecom interests outside its domestic market following the BASE sale.

— Iain Morris, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profile, News Editor, Light Reading

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