Fired-Up Deutsche Telekom CEO Lashes Out at Vodafone-Liberty M&A

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(Bloomberg) -- Deutsche Telekom AG Chief Executive Officer Tim Hoettges had two words to describe Vodafone Group Plc’s planned acquisition of Liberty Global Plc’s European assets: “Totally unacceptable.”

A visibly worked up Hoettges questioned Vodafone’s willingness to invest in fiber in Germany’s rural regions, and attacked the deal as being bad for competition in the telecommunications and media industry, in an exclusive interview with Bloomberg Television.

“Almost 60 percent of our TV market is monopolized by this cable operator in the future,” Hoettges said. “Is this good for democracy? Is this good for the media companies in this society? I question that.”

He even reached in to the past, noting that former monopoly Deutsche Telekom more than a decade ago was forced to sell its cable business in three regional blocks instead of one piece -- which may have fetched a better price.

“And now all these three pieces are coming together in one under the roof of Vodafone,” Hoettges said. With Vodafone becoming a much bigger competitor in Germany, Deutsche Telekom should be de-regulated, he said. “We are fighting for a very fair competition.”’

Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao wasn’t silent on the issue either, calling Hoettges’s comments "amusing" and "self-serving.”

“It seems that Tim Hoettges’s mission and Deutsche Telekom’s mission is to protect and grow their dominance,” Colao said on a call with reporters. “They are in 70 percent of German homes and they don’t want anybody else to have the same type of access. This is not pro-consumer, it is pro-Deutsche Telekom.”

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