Infratil's plan to buy up to 50 percent of Vodafone New Zealand has been cleared by the Commerce Commission - and with no requirement to offload its majority stake in power and broadband provider Trustpower.
Overseas Investment Office approval is still required for the other partner in the acquisition - Canada's Brookfield Asset Management. A Vodafone spokeswoman said the OIO's verdict is also expected later today.
Post-acquisition, Vodafone NZ will - for undisclosed licensing fees - keep rights to the Vodafone name and retain access to Vodafone's global technology. CEO Jason Paris, painting a best-of-both-world scenario, says it will also give local management more control over strategy, accelerating product releases.
It will also retain Vodafone global roaming - but a $5 to $7 a day or 40 per cent price increase kicks in today.
Customers who don't like the price rise can cancel their contract without incurring early termination fees, Vodafone says.
Rising costs were blamed for the increase, and Vodafone says the number of countries covered by its roaming deal has been expanded from 70 to more than 100.
The timing is coincidental if an unhappy coincidence. The global roaming rise was first flagged on June 4.
Infratil and Brookfield sought Commerce Commission approval for their $3.4 billion purchase of Vodafone Group's New Zealand business.
While regulatory approval was widely expected, there was a question mark over whether Infratil would have to jettison its 51 per cent stake in Trustpower to smooth the path to approval.
Trustpower has been bundling fast internet with its power plans and recently reported it had 103,000 broadband customers or 5 per cent of the market.
But this morning, Commission chair Anna Rawlings said the regulator was satisfied Infratil's proposed shareholding in both Vodafone and Trustpower would not substantially lessen competition in any of the markets it assessed.
Rawlings noted that Truspower's bundling tactic had been widely imitated across the market, from both the ISP and power company sides.
"While Trustpower has in the past been an aggressive competitor in residential broadband, with a particular focus on energy and broadband bundles, several other multi-utility providers have similarly emerged including Vocus, Nova Energy and Contact Energy," she said. "2degrees and Stuff Fibre are also competing effectively in the residential broadband market alongside Spark and MyRepublic."
She said Vodafone and Trustpower are not currently each other's closest competitors and even in regions where they would hold a high market share - such as Bay of Plenty and Wellington - "they will continue to face effective competition from several other national operators."
Competition in mobile markets is generally driven by the three network operators and is therefore unlikely to be affected by Infratil's acquisition, she said.
"For these reasons, we are satisfied that the proposed transaction should be granted clearance."
Trustpower is currently Infratil's biggest asset, at $1.1 billion, followed closely by Canberra Data Centres at $841-$942 million and Wellington International Airport at $770-850 million.
Infratil's planned purchase of Vodafone will transform its portfolio, with 76 percent of the post-acquisition assets being split equally between renewable energy and data and connectivity. Those two segments account for 48 percent and 22 percent of the portfolio currently.
Infratil shares last traded at $4.68 and have gained 30 percent so far this year.
Vodafone NZ chief executive Jason Paris - who has recently overseen an at-times painful restructure - will stay on post-deal.
Infratil chief executive Marko Bogoievski will become Vodafone NZ chairman.