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Vodafone-TPG Case, Court Propose September Hearing

TPG and Vodafone’s appeal against the ACCC blocking their $15 billion merger may be decided by the end of the year, after presiding Justice John Middleton proposed a hearing date of September 10.

Justice Middleton, who also heads the Australian Competition Tribunal, deemed the case to be “very significant” necessitating a quick turnaround in court.

Counsel for Vodafone, Robert Yezerski, told the court that both TPG and Vodafone were satisfied with ACCC’s proposed date of November 4, and only pushed for an earlier start date of August 26 after hearing Justice Middleton’s comments.

The ACCC has hired Hayne barrister Michael Hodge for the case set to be held at the Melbourne Federal Court.

Although Justice Middleton proposed 10 September, neither counsel is available. The confirmed court date is yet to be determined.

Justice Middleton also presided over the Tabcorp Tatts merger case in 2017, which then overturned the ACCC’s decision.

After nearly a year-long investigation, the ACCC revealed in a premature post that it denied the proposed $15 billion merger between the two local telcos.

ACCC chair, Rod Sims, defended the decision as the merger would increase prices for everyday consumers and prevent TPG from completing its own mobile network, which it ditched back in January of this year.

However, the executive chairman of TPG, David Teoh, blamed the construction cancellation on the ban on using Huawei’s equipment in the country’s 5G network build.

“The economic incentives for investing in, and pursuing, a rollout of TPG’s proposed 4G and 5G networks were fundamentally changed, given the inevitable increased costs, delays and competitive disadvantages that TPG would bear in pursuing its previously announced plans,” read a Vodafone statement.

“There is not a credible business case for TPG pursuing a roll-out of a new mobile network.”

Reportedly, these claims that it would be impossible to build a 5G network without Huawei’s equipment will be interrogated during the court case.

Shares in TPG have again plummeted, currently at $6.27.

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