Advanced Television

Portuguese antitrust probes Vodafone, Nowo deal

April 6, 2023

From Branislav Pekic in Rome

The Autoridade da Concorrência (AdC), Portugal’s Competition Authority, has launched an in-depth investigation into Vodafone Portugal’s acquisition of local quad-play provider Nowo, expressing competition concerns.

The antitrust authority justified its decision with the fact that, “given the evidence so far, it cannot be excluded that the merger will significantly impede effective competition in the national market or in a substantial part of it, to the detriment of consumers”.

Causes of concern for the AdC are that the merger would eliminate an operator that offers comparatively lower prices for some fixed and mobile telecom services, in addition to creating barriers for the entry of new players, as Vodafone would ‘inherit’ control over mobile spectrum reserved for new entrants.

Vodafone announced in October 2022 that it was acquiring Nowo from Spanish operator MásMóvil, a deal estimated at the time to be worth around €150 million.

Vodafone Portugal provides fixed and mobile communications, fixed and mobile internet and pay-TV services, with national network coverage, on its own infrastructure or that of third parties.

For its part, Nowo is a provider of fixed voice, mobile services (as a MVNO using Altice Portugal’s network), fixed broadband and pay-TV services in mainland Portugal.

Contrary to Vodafone, Nowo’s fixed network and broadband coverage is limited to certain regions of Continental Portugal.

During the recent 5G auction, Nowo obtained frequency spectrum to develop its own mobile network.

According to Anacom data for 2022, Nowo was the fourth largest operator in the pay-TV (2.9 per cent), fixed broadband (2.9 per cent), and mobile (2 per cent) segments. The operator has an estimated 250,000 mobile and 140,000 fixed (pay-TV and broadband) customers.

Vodafone was the second largest mobile operator with 28.9 per cent share and the third largest player in the pay-TV (18.8 per cent) and fixed broadband markets (21.7 per cent).

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