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Brussels, 25 April 2001

Commission clears Liberty Media's purchase of a controlling stake in UnitedGlobalCommunications

The Commission has granted regulatory clearance to an operation by which Liberty Media International Inc, a US-based media, entertainment and technology company, acquires a controlling stake in UnitedGlobalCommunications Inc (United) and, therefore, in United's Dutch-based cable operator subsidiary United Pan-Europe Communications (UPC). The transaction does not lead to any competition concerns in Europe.

The Commission's investigation showed that the transaction would not lead to any significant overlaps in the activities of the parties and that the operation would not produce any foreclosure effects in any of the countries in which Liberty and UPC are active.

In particular, the proposed transaction does not create any competition problems in the markets for telecommunications and Internet related services. Liberty is active in these sectors in the United Kingdom, through its stake in cable operator Telewest, and Ireland, through its stake in cable operator Chorus. UPC is also a provider of such services in Europe notably through Internet Services Provider Chello. However, UPC only has limited activities in the United Kingdom and is not active in Ireland. The Commission has therefore concluded that the proposed transaction would not lead to either a creation or strengthening of a dominant position in any of the telecommunications and related markets in which the parties are active.

As regards pay-television and related services, the proposed transaction only leads to limited and insignificant horizontal overlaps in the markets for the production and supply of TV programming and the wholesale supply of pay-TV channels to pay-TV operators. Moreover, the proposed operation does not alter the parties' market shares on the national markets for retail distribution of pay-TV channels to the final consumer or for TV distribution infrastructure since Liberty operates only in the United Kingdom and Ireland where UPC has no presence. UPC's only significant market shares in European retail distribution of pay-television are to be found only in Austria, Norway, and the Netherlands.

The Commission also examined the potential competitive impact of the vertical links created by the operation in pay-TV and related markets but concluded that these would not be significant since Liberty's share of the upstream market for the wholesale supply of pay-television in these countries is insufficient to lead to the foreclosure of other third party content from UPC's cable platform.

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