Four-to-three mergers in the telecoms sector: annotation to the CK Telecoms UK judgment

20 October 2020

For the legal journal Mediaforum, Gaëlle Béquet contributed an annotation to a landmark judgment of the General Court of the European Union of 28 May 2020 between CK Telecoms UK and the European Commission (Case T 399/16).

The General Court annulled the European Commission’s merger decision blocking the acquisition of O2 UK by Hutchison 3G UK. That acquisition was a “four-to-three” merger, i.e. a merger which would reduce the number of market players from four to three. It would have made the merged entity a leading (but not dominant) player in the UK mobile telephony market. This strict four-to-three approach adopted by the Commission has created uncertainty in the telecoms market and, as a result, to some extent probably prevented its further consolidation. From a competition law point of view, the judgment is of great importance because, for the first time since the introduction of the Merger Regulation in 2004, the Court is reviewing a Commission decision prohibiting a concentration which would not have led to the creation or strengthening of a dominant position of the merged entity.

Click here to read the English text of the judgment and the Dutch annotation.