Thursday 25 December 2014

EU poised to give Three green light for O2 takeover

Aoife White

Published 24/05/2014 | 02:30

Joaquin Almunia: warning on higher prices for consumers. Reuters
Joaquin Almunia: warning on higher prices for consumers. Reuters

Three Ireland will win European Union approval to take over O2 Ireland next week after a key EU panel backed the deal, sources told Bloomberg.

Officials from the EU's national competition authorities met this week and gave their support to the European Commission's plans to approve the deal.

National regulators' decision, which isn't binding, paves the way for the European Commission to grant final approval at its next meeting on Wednesday, the sources said.

The green light is coming because UPC is poised to begin providing mobile phone services in Ireland, taking up Three owner Hutchison Whampoa's offer of network access that sought to allay EU regulatory concerns.

The concessions from Hutchison Whampoa are designed to overcome EU objections to the combination of two of the country's four mobile operators.

Billionaire Li Ka-shing's Hutchison agreed last year to buy O2 Ireland for as much as €850m to combine O2 with Three Ireland, the third-largest wireless carrier.

O2 owner Telefonica's separate plan to merge its German unit with Royal KPN NV's E-Plus is another major tie-up that is testing how far regulators are willing to allow consolidation in the telecommunications industry.

Joaquin Almunia, the EU's antitrust chief, has said that such deals can't come at the expense of higher prices for consumers.

Hutchison Whampoa and O2 Ireland declined to comment, as did Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission. (Bloomberg)

Irish Independent

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