United Group affiliates are seemingly engaged in a sweep of Bulgarian telecommunications takeovers, eliciting wariness from industry members A1 Group and PPF Group. This comes after the Bulgarian Commission on Protection of Competition (CPC) granted permission for United-owned Vivacom to assimilate Networks-Bulgaria, along with six minor Bulgarian telecoms. This raises suspicion as it could gift Vivacom control over nearly 60% of the Bulgarian TV distribution sector and 40% of its ISP market.

A1, which owns a subsidiary in Bulgaria, has openly expressed unease over this decision. They argue that this move could potentially pave the way for the establishment of a dominant player in the Bulgarian telecommunications sector which could disproportionately disadvantage consumers. They revealed, “This development further adds to the apprehension surrounding the regulatory decisions, as it reinforces the potential for the creation of a dominant player in the Bulgarian telecom marketplace, which poses significant disadvantages for the consumers.”

Adding to the concern is an impending decision on the acquisition of Bulsatcom, the region’s largest broadband operator, by United Group. A1 maintains that United’s bid to take over Bulsatcom’s operations without notifying the CPC and amidst allegations of other legal irregularities raises alarm bells.

This apprehension stems from Slovenia Broadband, under the umbrella of United Group, offering to purchase assets from Bulsatcom. A1 Group is worried that United might cement a dominant position in the wider Bulgarian telecoms and media market via individual takeovers involving various subsidiaries without regulator objection.

Backing A1’s apprehensions is PPF Telecom Group, owners of Yettel, expressing strong dissatisfaction with the CPC’s decision. They underscored in their statement that, “Bulgaria’s Commission for the Protection of Competition, in a move that contradicts accepted European norms and practices, has approved a set of transactions that will lead to enormous concentrations of market share and power in the hands of Bulgarian telecom operator Vivacom and its ultimate owner, United Group.”

Both A1 and PPF are showing indications of an intent to bring this matter up before the European Commission. While United Group has not publicly addressed these grievances, it can be assessed that they likely dissent with these viewpoints. European regulators traditionally have a definite understanding of what percentage of a specific market should be permissible for ownership by a single entity. In that context, it seems fair to consolidate all United Group affiliates when evaluating that quota.