/ 7 January 2009

Altech withdraws intervention in MTN-Verizon merger

IT and telecoms firm Altech Technologies, which was granted the right to intervene in the MTN and Verizon merger hearings, has withdrawn its intervention in the matter, the Competition Tribunal said on Wednesday.

”Altech opposed the merger because it was of the view that the merger would give rise to substantial competition concerns and applied for leave to intervene,” the tribunal said.

This intervention was opposed by both MTN and Verizon.

In terms of the proposed merger transaction between MTN and Verizon, IT company Verizon European Holdings is selling its interest in Verizon South Africa (69,38%) to cellphone operator MTN.

”During the Competition Commission investigation a number of third parties (all competitors) voiced concerns around bundling, input and customer foreclosure, the removal of an effective upstream infrastructure rival and avoidance of regulation,” the tribunal said.

In particular the competitors were concerned that the merged entity would be in a stronger position to discriminate against rivals in respect of infrastructure, interconnection, gateways both locally and internationally, the tribunal said.

According to the tribunal, the commission considered these concerns and concluded that the merged entity was unlikely to exclude its rivals.

”The commission therefore recommended to the tribunal that the transaction be approved without conditions.”

The matter will be heard on January 8, 9, 12, 13 and 14 at the Competition Tribunal in Pretoria. — Sapa