Australia regulator delays decision on TPG-Vodafone merger

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(Reuters) - Australia's competition watchdog has delayed its decision on whether to approve the A$15 billion (8.3 billion pounds) merger of TPG Telecom Ltd TPM.AX and the local arm of Britain's Vodafone Group Plc VOD.L after raising concerns in December.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) set April 11 as the new provisional date for its decision on the mega-telco tie-up, two weeks later than it initially intended.

The regulator said the delay was due to TPG and Vodafone not providing the required information on time.

Vodafone Australia was yet to lodge its response to ACCC’s concerns, but it remained committed to the deal, a company spokeswoman told Reuters. A TPG spokesman had no comment.

Last month, the watchdog stopped short of blocking the deal, saying it was concerned the merger would remove incentive for two of the industry’s biggest four players to offer cheaper prices.

The tie-up, which will hand TPG shareholders 49.9 percent of the new entity, comes as Australia’s telecoms sector faces upheaval from the rollout of a government-owned broadband wholesaler, which has dented internet profitability and driven intense price competition in the mobile market.

Vodafone runs a mobile phone business in Australia in a joint venture with Hutchison Telecommunications (Australia) Ltd HTA.AX, while TPG mainly runs an internet business.

Reporting by Nikhil Kurian Nainan in BENGALURU, additional reporting by Tom Westbrook in SYDNEY; Editing by Christopher Cushing and Gopakumar Warrier