UPC France to Cinven

British investment fund Cinven won permission from the European Commission on Friday to buy the French UPC cable television business from Liberty Global for 1.25 billion euros ($1.59 billion) in cash.

The deal would group cable networks UPC-Noos and Numericable, leaving them in control of nearly all of France's cable services with a combined 4 million customers.

"The Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area," the EU executive said in a statement.

The move would give them a stronger base from which to compete against telecoms operators, which have grabbed the lion's share of the country's market for broadband services.

Liberty Global and its predecessor companies had built up UPC France with acquisitions, including Noos in 2004 for 650 million euros and Intercomm in 2000.

UPC France has about 1.6 million customers buying television, high-speed Internet and telephone service, but it is much smaller than its satellite and telecoms rivals.

France is one of Europe's most competitive markets for broadband services. It is dominated by telecoms firms providing high-speed Internet access over ADSL phone lines, including France Telecom, which has less than half the residential market, and Iliad, which has an 18 percent market share.