EU watchdog investigates Telefonica's German buy

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Europe's top antitrust regulator says it has launched an in-depth investigation of Telefonica SA's proposed 8.55 billion euro ($11.7 billion) purchase of E-Plus, the German arm of Dutch telecommunications company Royal KPN NV.

Telefonica agreed to purchase the business from KPN in August, after winning the support of KPN's biggest shareholder, Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. Telefonica plans to merge E-Plus with its own German arm, creating a third player on the German market big enough to rival leaders Deutsche Telekom AG and Vodafone PLC.

But the European Commission's commissioner for competition Joaquin Almunia said he was concerned the deal would reduce competition in several areas, notably the retail mobile telephony market. His office now has until May, 2014 to decide whether to allow the merger.

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