LONDON (Reuters) - Vodafone (VOD.L) has agreed to pay $21.8 billion to buy Liberty Global’s (LBTYA.O) assets in Germany and eastern Europe to take the fight to rivals with a broader range of superfast cable TV, broadband and mobile services.

The world’s second-largest mobile operator struck a deal with U.S. cable pioneer John Malone’s Liberty after years of on-off talks to become a European force to challenge the dominance of former monopolies such as Deutsche Telekom (DTEGn.DE).

The German provider swiftly emphasised its previously stated opposition to the deal and Vodafone is likely to face a lengthy regulatory review in Brussels. Deutsche Telekom is set to argue that the deal should at the very least lead to an easing of the regulations it faces in its home market.

The deal puts Vodafone back on the front foot in its European heartlands, where it is battling to be one of the few players with the scale to provide the full range of entertainment and communications services that consumers want.

“In Europe, Vodafone started historically as the challenger in mobile across all markets, over time we built a presence in fixed and now with this transaction we become the largest provider of mobile-fixed converged services across all European countries,” Vodafone Chief Executive Vittorio Colao told reporters.

He said the logic of putting together mobile and fixed assets had strengthened in markets like Germany, pushing a deal between the two companies over the line.

“This transaction will create the first truly converged pan-European champion of competition,” he said.

“It is also a transformative combination for Vodafone, we will become the leading next-generation network owner in Europe, serving the largest number of mobile customers and households across the EU.”


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