Vodafone-TPG merger passes final regulatory hurdle with FIRB approval

Vodafone-TPG merger passes final regulatory hurdle with FIRB approval

Two of the largest internet and mobile phone services providers in the country are now one step closer to merging, following approval from the Foreign Investment Review Board (FIRB).

In February the Federal Court approved the fusion of TPG Telecom (ASX: TPM) and Vodafone Hutchison Australia (VHA), dismissing concerns from the competition watchdog.

A few weeks later the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) later concluded that despite its objections it did not have grounds for appeal

When the "merger of equals" was originally announced in August 2018, the two companies heralded their combination as a "more effective challenger" to the market domination of Telstra and Optus.

At the time it was described as a $15 billion deal, however market drops since the onset of COVID-19 mean it would look more like a $13.4 billion merger for now.

VHA is 50-50 owned by the UK's Vodafone Plc and Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) Limited (ASX: HTA), itself majority owned by Hutchison Telecommunications (Amsterdam) B.V. while Spark NZ (ASX: SPK) also has a 10 per cent share.

VHA chief executive officer Iñaki Berroeta said the FIRB approval meant the merger process was now well underway.

"The merger is now another significant step closer to reality, and we're progressing our plans to bring the two companies together mid-year," Berroeta said.

"The Scheme Booklet will be released in coming weeks and submitted to TPG shareholders for approval. 

"Australia will soon have a third fully-integrated telecommunications company for the first time."

He said increased strength and scale would accelerate 5G plans, delivering "benefits to consumers and investors, and challenging the status quo".

VHA is working to finalise all other processes required for its listing on the ASX and expects the merger to be completed in mid-2020 and with an effective date in the first half of the year.

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