The European Commission said it has cleared Ameritech to acquire a minority stake in Danish telco Tele Danmark. This is the first case where a US telecoms operators has acquired "a decisive influence" in an EU counterpart.
After examination under EU merger regulations, the Commission said its ruling takes place despite continuing uncertainty over how the US market will be opened to European investors. EU trade officials are unhappy with latest Federal Communications Commission rules on US licensing of foreign competitors.
"Nevertheless, the Commission considers that such issues are to be tackled by means other than the application of competition policy. The decision adopted by the Commission in this case further confirms that the Commission's competition policy is based on competition criteria and is not affected by other extraneous considerations," it said.
In its competition assessment, the EC found that other competitors of a larger scale and resources are striving to develop their positions in the Danish and other European telecomms markets.
Tele Danmark still enjoys a very high market share in its domestic country, despite liberalisation, while Ameritech's market strength lies in local telephony in certain areas of the US, so the two are not at present competing against each other - therefore there will be no reduction of consumer choice.
"The Commission has also considered that at a broader level, Ameritech and Tele Danmark could be regarded as potential competitors for added value services in a liberalised market," it said.
Ameritech is buying its minority stake in Tele Danmark from the Danish government.
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