By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - U.S. satellite operator Viasat's bid for British satellite telecommunications company Inmarsat will need EU antitrust approval before it can be completed, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
Viasat in November last year announced the bid in a deal valued at $7.3 billion in cash, stock and an assumption of debt, and said it expects to close the deal in the second half of 2022, after shareholder approval and regulatory clearances.
The EU executive, which acts as the competition enforcer in the 27-country bloc, said the proposed deal does not meet the turnover threshold for its scrutiny but it had accepted a request to examine the case from Spain. Twelve other European countries subsequently joined in.
"The European Commission has accepted requests submitted by Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Spain, and Sweden to assess the proposed acquisition of Inmarsat by Viasat under the EU Merger Regulation," the EU watchdog said.
"The Commission will now ask Viasat to notify the transaction. Viasat cannot implement the transaction before notifying and obtaining clearance from the Commission."
SpaceX's satellite unit last month protested about the deal to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC), alleging the rival satellite operator had violated FCC rules and should not be granted approval to control another company's assets.
The UK competition agency has given third parties until Aug. 15 to provide feedback to the deal.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by David Holmes)