Korea’s antitrust agency has given conditional approvals for LG Uplus and SK Broadband to purchase the country’s No. 1 and No. 2 cable TV operators CJ Hello and t-broad, respectively, according to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC).
The FTC said it approved SK Broadband, a subsidiary of the country’s largest mobile carrier SK Telecom, to merge with t-broad, and LG Uplus, the third-largest mobile carrier, to acquire a 50 per cent stake and an additional one share of CJ Hello for 800 billion won (€ 625.4 million).
Despite the concerns that the country’s media market will be dominated by major telecom operators, FTC Chairwoman Joh Sung-wook said the agency decided to grant approvals “to boost competition for innovation in a rapidly changing technology and market environment in broadcasting and telecommunications industry,” in a quote carried by The Korea Times.
Under the conditional approvals, both LG and SK are banned until 2022 from increasing subscription fees for cable TV services above the country’s headline inflation and imposing consumers to switch to expensive subscription packages. Also, they are prohibited from reducing the total number of cable TV channels.
To complete the merger processes, SK Broadband is required to win approval from both the Ministry of Science and ICT and the KCC, while LG Uplus needs to win approval from only the ministry.
T hey are expected to get approvals by early 2020.
“The merger of SK Broadband and t-broad will help the growth of IPTV and cable TV and contribute to the development of the local media ecosystem,” SK Telecom said.
LG Uplus said it “respects the FTC’s decision and we will faithfully implement the details of arrangements ordered by the agency,” adding: “We will try to expand consumer choices and invest more to stabilize the job markets.”