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Hungary exempts sale of local Vodafone unit from competition scrutiny

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BUDAPEST (Reuters) -Hungary's government has declared local IT firm 4iG's purchase of a 51% stake in Vodafone's Hungarian unit a transaction of national strategic interest, exempting the deal from competition scrutiny, according to a decree published late on Monday.

British telecom group Vodafone said on Monday it had agreed to the sale of its Hungarian business to local IT company 4iG and the Hungarian state.

Under the plan, 4iG will hold a majority 51% stake while the Hungarian state will hold 49%, and the transaction is expected to close later this month.

The Vodafone deal is the latest of a series of moves by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and oligarchs close to his Fidesz party or his government that have expanded their influence in strategic sectors since Orban gained power in 2010.

In the decree, the government said 4iG's acquisition of the Vodafone stake served the country's "security of telecoms services supply" and would therefore qualify as a deal of "national strategic significance."

"The classification excludes, inter alia, the jurisdiction of the Hungarian Competition Authority," brokerage Equilor said in a client note on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Krisztina Than; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Edwina Gibbs)