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European deals through Dec. 23: Verizon, Vivendi, MegaFon

The European edition of M&A Replay presents a weekly wrap-up of European media and communications deal announcements, completions and updates.


* Verizon Communications Inc. won approval from the European Commission for its deal to acquire Yahoo! Inc., according to a Dec. 21 post by the Commission. While approving the deal, the EC said the proposed transaction "would not raise any competition concerns given the companies' moderate market positions, the limited increments brought by the proposed transaction and the presence of a number of strong players providing such services."

M&A Media

* Vivendi SA CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine said his company has "all the more reason" to strike a deal with Italian broadcaster Mediaset SpA now that it has become the latter's second biggest shareholder, Reuters reported Dec. 23. Vivendi said that, as of Dec. 22, it owns 28.80% of the share capital and 29.94% of the voting rights in Mediaset.

* Earlier, Italian communications regulator AGCOM launched a probe into Vivendi's recent push for Mediaset, following a complaint from the latter. AGCOM is looking into the stake-building with regard to Italy's antitrust regulations that prevent companies from getting a large share of the local telecom and media markets, Reuters reported Dec. 21, citing a statement from the watchdog.

* The EC accused Facebook Inc. of providing misleading information when the Commission conducted a probe into the social networking giant's acquisition of WhatsApp Inc. in 2014, according to a Dec. 20 news release. The Commission's allegations stemmed from WhatsApp's move to share user data with Facebook for product development and advertising purposes. The EC has given Facebook until Jan. 31, 2017, to respond to the charges.

* Sony Corp. unit Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. bought a stake of about 5% in Italian video-on-demand platform Chili SpA for about €3 million, Bloomberg News reported Dec. 19, citing people familiar with the matter. Chili's other investors include Paramount Pictures Corp., its parent Viacom Inc. and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.

M&A Communications

* Russian operator MegaFon agreed to acquire a voting stake of about 63.8% in internet firm Mail.Ru Group Ltd. for $740 million, according to a Dec. 23 news release. Under the deal, MegaFon will buy 11.5 million class A shares and 21.9 million ordinary shares in Mail.Ru from three USM Holdings units. The deal is subject to the approval of Russian antitrust authorities and MegaFon shareholders, among other conditions.

* Liberty Global plc unit Telenet Group Holding NV is acquiring Coditel Brabant SPRL, Altice NV's Belgium and Luxembourg businesses operating under the SFR brand, for €400 million, the companies said on Dec. 22. Telenet unit Telenet Group BVBA will acquire Coditel Brabant, also dubbed SFR BeLux, from Altice unit Coditel Holding SA. The deal is subject to Belgian antitrust approval.

* Opera Software ASA sold a controlling stake in Opera TV, an independent cloud and embedded software developer for over-the-top deployment, to Moore Frères & Co., an investment run by former Viacom executives, Advanced Television reported Dec. 20. The acquisition will allow Opera TV and Moore Frères, together, to become a key enabler of OTT in the TV industry worldwide. Opera TV's offerings enable TV and set-top-box manufacturers to add technology and capability for internet streaming.

* American Tower Corp. is partnering with PGGM to buy FPS Towers in France via their ATC Europe joint venture, according to a Dec. 19 news release. FPS Towers has about 2,400 wireless tower sites in operation across France. The deal is expected to be completed during the first quarter of 2017.