February 19, 2017 / 11:30 PM / 7 months ago

Spark asks court to suspend Sky takeover of Vodafone NZ

WELLINGTON (Reuters) - Telecommunications company Spark (SPK.NZ) has asked a New Zealand court to rule a 36-hour pause must take place before Sky Network Television (SKT.NZ) can buy Vodafone’s New Zealand unit (VOD.L) if the competition regulator approves the deal.

Spark said in a statement to the stock exchange on Monday that the pause would provide companies “breathing space” to understand the regulator’s reasoning.

Sky said in a separate statement that it would challenge the stay in a court hearing scheduled for Feb. 22, and that the pay-TV provider would seek damages.

The Commerce Commission is due to rule on the proposed NZ$1.3 billion ($934.44 million) takeover on Feb. 23 and has previously cited concern the deal would dampen competition from rival broadband and mobile providers.

Spark said in a letter last week that if Sky did not agree to hold off on the transaction it would start court proceedings.

“Sky does not consider that there is any proper basis for seeking an interim stay from the court,” Sky said on Thursday and reiterated in Monday’s statement.

Spark has been vocal in its opposition to the deal, saying that Sky’s monopoly on premium sports content rights in New Zealand is a key concern.

Shares in Spark were up 0.3 percent, while Sky TV shares were down 0.6 percent in the wake of the announcement.

Reporting by Charlotte Greenfield; Editing by Stephen Coates

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