The European Commission has approved the joint venture between the Italian subsidiaries of CK Hutchison and VimpelCom.

The €21.8 million deal, first proposed in August 2015, sees mobile operators Three and Wind merge to challenge rivals TIM and Vodafone.

As a result of remedies the companies proposed to get the deal over the line, France’s Iliad is now set to enter the Italian mobile market as its fourth operator.

Brussels has waved through Iliad’s acquisition of spectrum and mobile sites, first announced in July, alongside the use of Three and Wind’s joint network until it has established its own substantial infrastructure.

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Today's decision ensures that the Italian mobile sector remains competitive, so that consumers can continue to enjoy innovative mobile services at fair prices and on high quality networks.

“We can approve the deal because Hutchison and VimpelCom have offered a strong remedy that enables a new mobile network operator, Iliad, to enter the Italian market.

“This case shows that telecom companies in Europe can grow by consolidation within the same country, provided effective competition is preserved.

“It also shows they can grow by cross-border expansion, such as Iliad in this case.”

Hutchison and VimpelCom welcomed the decision and promised to invest in Italy’s infrastructure to the tune of €7 billion.

Canning Fok, CK Hutchison Co-Managing Director, commented: “Today is a good day for businesses and consumers across Italy.

“This joint venture will unlock major investment in Italy’s digital infrastructure, creating a telecoms company with the scale and strength to offer world‐leading telecoms services with greater reliability, coverage and speed.

“The joint venture will ensure Europe’s fourth largest telecoms market remains a leading player in the global digital economy.”

Jean-Yves Charlier, CEO of VimpelCom, added: “The merger will create a leading and financially solid mobile operator in Italy that will benefit from substantial synergies of combining the number three and number four operators in the marketplace.

“The joint venture will also benefit from a healthier debt profile and will be in a position to deliver solid deleveraging in the medium term.

“On completion, the combined business will not only be good for consumers, businesses and the economy in Italy but will also deliver long‐term value to its shareholders.”

Iliad is yet to make a comment.

The operator’s Free Mobile business has shaken up the French market since launching in 2012.

According to its latest financials, released yesterday, it now has a 17.4 percent share of the French mobile market with over 12 million customers.

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