CASTRIES: Digicel has welcomed an announcement by the Eastern Caribbean Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (ECTEL) expressing concern regarding the merger between Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus Communications Inc. (Columbus).
The St. Lucia-based ECTEL says the proposed agreement is a matter of significant public interest for the region deserving of rigorous regulatory attention and diligent review.
“We very much welcome this intervention by ECTEL and its expression of support for a rigorous regulatory examination of the proposed acquisition,” said Digicel chief executive officer, Colm Delves. “Digicel was taken aback by the dismissive position of CWC/Columbus that the Governments of the ECTEL Member States and the established Regulatory Authorities in those countries were essentially powerless and had no right to oversee the proposed merger.”
In a statement last week, ECTEL announced its “deep concern” in relation to the proposed transaction and the fact that the proposed merger could “potentially result in a negative impact on competition” by “reducing choice for consumers of both services and service providers”.
ECTEL said that “increased monopolization can erode the gains made by liberalization” and that the proposed merger raises significant issues in terms of potential breaches of licences by both CWC and Columbus which must be investigated thoroughly.
CWC and Columbus have already indicated that regulatory notifications and approvals would only be required in the United States, Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad.
However, Digicel said it is “heartened to note that ECTEL and the local National Telecommunications Regulatory Commissions (NTRCs) in each member state have signalled their determination to stand up and be counted in the face of such dismissive statements to the financial markets.
“Digicel confirms its willingness and desire to engage with ECTEL and the NTRCs in each member state such that a proper rigorous review of the telecommunications markets and the proposed acquisition can be undertaken.
“It is only on foot of such a review that any worthwhile assessment of the proposed acquisition on competition and consumer welfare can be conducted properly and responsibly,” the statement noted.
Delves said the fact that CWC and Columbus “are seeking to essentially put a gun to the heads of the Caribbean regulatory authorities and Governments to approve their transaction on their terms and according to their own self-declared timetables is also a cause for alarm.
“Digicel believes that ECTEL and the NTRCs in each member state have an absolute right, morally as well as legally, to subject the proposed merger to a rigorous examination and approvals process in collaboration with their respective Governments and relevant ministerial bodies,” he said.