Regulator mulls Batelco's $1bn CWC deal

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(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

(Photo for illustrative purposes only)

The telecom regulator of Britain's Channel Islands will decide whether to approve Bahrain Telecommunications Co's (Batelco) acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications' assets by the end of February, it said on Wednesday.

Batelco in December agreed to buy CWC's Monaco and Islands division in a deal worth up to $1bn, which both companies' shareholders formally approved earlier this month.

CWC's Jersey and Guernsey units operate under the brand name Sure and their licences contain "change of control" provisions that are now being scrutinised by The Channel Islands Competition and Regulatory Authorities (CICRA).

These clauses require the licensee to notify the regulator of a change of ownership, which can then approve or reject the deal, with a further option to make approval subject to new licence conditions.

Ahead of that decision, CICRA has launched a consultation seeking public input "into the principles we should be applying for those of change of control decisions," chief executive Andrew Riseley told Reuters.

"This is very important infrastructure for the Channel Islands and so the issue is a matter of considerable public interest," he said.

The public consultation will close on January 24, by when CICRA expects to have received official notification from Batelco and CWC of their proposed deal.

The regulator will then give its provisional verdict by mid-February, Riseley said, before allowing another brief period for public comment. A final decision is due by the end of February.

In the consultation document, the regulator says it should ensure Batelco has operational and technical expertise as well as sufficient financial backing.

"If we were to have concerns about any of those issues, one way of addressing them would be to say 'we approve it, but we require the following new licence conditions'," said Riseley.

"We haven't received the notification yet, so in no way is that a prediction licence conditions would be imposed. It's just the way this process works."

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