The European Union's antitrust regulator has granted telecoms firms Orange and MásMóvil permission to complete their proposed merger in Spain.

The deal, which is expected to be worth €18.6 billion ($20.1bn), was given the go-ahead after MásMóvil agreed to divest spectrum across three frequency spectrum bands to Romania's Digi.

Orange Spain shop
– Getty Images

Orange said it expects the deal to conclude the by the end of the quarter.

The deal will see the number of Spanish mobile operators consolidate from four to three.

Last year, the European Commission said such a deal would reduce competition and increase costs in Spain, and warned the operators would have to address a number of competition concerns before any approval is given.

To address the Commission's concerns, the two operators signed a deal to sell some assets to Romania's Digi Communications to mitigate the EU fears.

"The commitments offered by the parties will enable Digi, the largest and fastest-growing mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) in Spain, to replicate the strong competitive pressure exerted by MásMóvil," EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

MVNO Digi will use the spectrum to build its own mobile network, eventually becoming a fourth operator in Spain.

First announced back in 2022, the merger will take the form of a 50:50 joint venture.

Orange is the second biggest telco in Spain, while MásMóvil is the fourth biggest. Once complete, the merger company will serve more than 30 million mobile customers, and 7.3 million fixed customers.

“Today’s announcement is a crucial moment for the future development of the Group in Europe," said Christel Heydemann, CEO of Orange.

"Our proposed Joint Venture with MásMóvil will create a single, stronger, and more sustainable player in Spain. By joining forces, we can scale, we can innovate, and we can drive investment in Spain for the benefit of consumers and businesses.”

Since launching in the country back in 2008, Digi now has more than 5.7 million customers in Spain, as of the first half of this year.

The operator offers mobile services through an MVO agreement with Spanish telco Telefónica.