By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - French telecoms group Orange and Spanish rival MasMovil are set to gain conditional EU antitrust approval for their Spanish tie-up, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The move could signal a looser approach after telecoms companies urged EU antitrust regulators to ease their tough stance towards mergers that shrink the number of mobile players in a country from four to three.
Orange and MasMovil, the second and fourth-largest telecoms providers in Spain, announced the deal, which has an enterprise value of 18.6 billion euros ($20.2 billion), in July 2022.
The European Commission's approval is conditional on Romania's Digi acquiring spectrum from MasMovil and an option for a national roaming service agreement with Orange, the sources said.
Digi in a December regulatory filing said it had inked a 120-million-euro spectrum transfer agreement with an additional component of 20 million euros with MasMovil and an option for a national roaming service agreement with Orange's Spanish unit.
The EU competition enforcer, which is due to decide on the deal by Feb. 15, declined to comment. It warned last year that the tie-up may reduce competition and push up prices in Spain.
Orange and MasMovil also declined to comment.
Digi, which has expanded rapidly in the Spanish market since launching operations there in 2008, had more than 5.7 million customers at the end of the first half of 2023.
($1 = 0.9215 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Goodman, Kirsten Donovan)