The European Commission (EC) is still deciding whether to file objections against British Telecommunications (BT) and AT&T's international tie up as part of its European Union merger investigation.
Industry sources said the EC was continuing to analyse market data to decide if the venture held too high a market share in certain sectors, despite BT officials? claims that it only holds between four and nine per cent of the world market for multinational corporate services.
A lawyer acting for one of the rivals to the venture said: "You can't seriously consider that BT and AT&T have between four and nine per cent of any market." He added that it "is difficult in these proceedings to define the market. But to suggest they have no market power is fanciful".
The lawyer also said he was surprised that the investigation was not looking at AT&T's acquisition of IBM's data network business as well. "The idea that they would buy out the world's largest data network and not want to roll it into this is a little bit interesting to say the least," he attested.
But he added that the Commission was likely to take a decision on whether to file a statement of objections early next week after completing its market analysis. A filing would open the way to hearings with companies in the sector and possible demands for BT and AT&T to divest themselves of the business.
Industry sources were unable to say what specific markets the two companies might hold too high a share of, although one noted that discussions were taking place on how to measure issues such as voice in bulk or in minutes on transatlantic routes.
BT officials said they had agreed that AT&T should divest its UK activities to meet a second Commission objection to their tie up, but the EC is also looking at the venture?s socalled horizontal implications, which, unlike other global alliances in this sector, would involve the setting up a single seamless network.
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