The proposed merger of the Danish operations of Telenor and TeliaSonera has collapsed over disagreements with the European Commission, which could impact other deals awaiting regulatory approval.
The two operators said they had not been able to agree on “acceptable conditions” with Brussels.
Telenor and TeliaSonera first announced the deal last December, with the EC opening an in-depth investigation in April.
Brussels cited competition concerns regarding the shrinking of the market from four to three operators.
Since then, however, the operators have talked publically of their confidence that the deal would go ahead, albeit it with concessions.
In July, Telenor’s Hilde Tonne was appointed as CEO of the “new” company.
But they have now been left to explore other options after the EC said its concerns had not been addressed.
It is a statement of intent by Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who took her brief to oversee competition policy as part of the EC’s new Commission at the end of last year.
Vestager said: "EU merger control has to make sure that company tie-ups do not lead to reduced innovation, higher prices or reduced choice for consumers and do not restrict competition in the internal market.
“I believe that ensuring that markets are competitive is key both to spur much needed innovation and investment in European telecoms markets, as well as to offer affordable prices to consumers.
“Every case has to be assessed on its own facts and merits. In this specific case, based on the Commission's in-depth analysis and evidence gathered, we are convinced that the significant competition concerns required an equally significant remedy.
“This means the creation of a fourth mobile network operator. What the parties offered was not sufficient to avoid harm to competition in Danish mobile markets."
However, Robert Andersson, Executive Vice President and Head of Region Europe in TeliaSonera said: "Since the beginning, we have been strong advocates for the need to increase investment levels in Denmark.
“In our view, creating a market player with the scale and ability to compete and invest would ensure that customers and businesses would benefit from better quality, speed and coverage.”
One analyst who was present on a call this morning with the two operators tweeted that TeliaSonera’s CFO said: “We worked to the bitter end with EC. We got creative on remedies, but it still wasn’t enough”.
Kjell Morten Johnsen, Executive Vice President and Head of Telenor Region Europe, added: "In the interests of both companies, we felt it necessary to act decisively.
“Telenor and TeliaSonera will continue to compete and deliver products and services in the Danish market through our respective original, and still fully up-and-running Danish operations.”
The announcement could have far-reaching ramifications for the rest of the European telecoms market.