UOKiK Restricts Sale of Aster Cable

By Katarzyna Grynienko

WARSAW: Polish Office of Consumer and Competition Protection (UOKiK) set conditions to prevent UPC from monopolizing the Polish cable television market after taking over cable broadcaster Aster.

What is considered to be one of the biggest transactions on the Polish television market had caused UOKiK's (www.uokik.gov.pl) concern because of the position UPC would have from the acquisition. Liberty Global (www.lgi.com), the owner of UPC (www.upc.pl) cable net, plans to buy Aster (www.aster.pl) for 2.4 million PLN. MID Europa Partners LLP (www.mideuropa.com) investment fund will sell 100% of Aster's shares to Liberty Global for 870 million PLN, along with the current debt of the company for 1.53 million PLN. Currently UPC Polska has 1.1 million subscribers while Aster services over 380,000 subscribers.

After seven moths of deliberation, UOKiK decided that in order to prevent an unfair advantage for UPC, the company should sell the Krakow unit of Aster after acquiring the whole company.

"We conducted major research of the cable market in Poland. Because both UPC and Aster are active in the biggest cities, they were included in the reasearch along with their competitors. We know the conditions of this type of service, and we are aware of the danges connected with them," Małgorzata Cieloch, the spokesperson for UOKiK, said in an official statement.

UPC has not officially responded, but plans to continue negotiations with the Office.

"We are having a dialogue with the UOKiK, and we hope to find a constructive solution for the issues pointed out by the regulating body, taking into account the importance of the high competitiveness of the Polish media and communications market," said Patrycja Gołos, the Communications Director of UPC.