Microsoft’s purchase of a 23.6% stake in UK-based cable network Telewest Communications has been approved by Britain’s secretary of state for trade and industry Stephen Byers, it was announced yesterday.

Byers said he had been told by the Office of Fair Trading that the holding does not raise anti-trust concerns requiring a referral to the Competition Commission.

The OFT advised that the stake would not allow Microsoft to dominate the British market for digital television software – despite the fact that the company had already entered into similar deals with Britain's largest cable operator NTL and United Pan-Europe Communications of the Netherlands which also has UK television interests.The OFT also dismissed anti-trust concerns voiced earlier this year by the European Commission.

Said Byers: “I announced on 26 October that my policy would be to accept the advice [of the director general of fair trading] on whether or not to refer merger cases to the Competition Commission, save in exceptional circumstances. I have considered the DGFT's advice on the Microsoft/Telewest case very carefully and have decided to clear the merger in accordance with his recommendation."

News source: Wall Street Journal