European Commission imposes conditions on $10bn BT/AT&T link-up

European Commission imposes conditions on $10bn BT/AT&T link-up
Richard Wilson
A $10bn telecoms joint venture between BT and AT&T has been approved by the European Commission following the acceptance by the US telephone operator of business restructuring imposed as a condition of the deal.
AT&T has agreed to sell a UK-based long-distance telephone services operation, known as ACC UK. It has also undertaken to separate any structural links with Telewest, the UK cable operator in which AT&T stands to gain a 22 per cent stake in following an ongoing takeover of US cable group TCI Communications.
The Commission has made little comment on the situation with regards to AT&T’s relationship with Telewest other than saying it is looking for “a greater structural separation” between the businesses. It had been thought that AT&T’s takeover of TCI would hinder the BT joint venture.
The BT/AT&T joint venture, which was announced last year, will create a formidable player with a 30-50 per cent share of the global telecoms services market. However, the Commission gave the green light on the grounds that it would face competition from strong rival groups such as the GlobalOne venture between US operator Sprint and European operators France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom.
A spokesman for BT commented: “We now need to gain approval from the US Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission. We expect these clearances later this year and look forward to launching the new company.”

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