Three makes a move for €700m- valued 02 Ireland
Mobile operator Three is understood to have submitted an "expression of interest" to buy €700m- valued O2 Ireland, which may be sold off by debt- laden Spanish group Telefonica.
Telefonica's move to consider selling off its Irish operation was first revealed by the Sunday Independent earlier this year. 02 controls about 28 per cent of the Irish mobile market with Three upping its share to 9 per cent. Three has grown sales by 78 per cent in two years as rivals retrenched.
The fast-growing Three Ireland is owned by Hutchison Whampoa, the vast conglomerate controlled by Asia's richest man, Li Ka Shing. Hutchison Whampoa is pushing to consolidate telecoms assets in Europe and is trying to merge its Italian business with Telecom Italia. Three declined to comment.
Telefonica is thought to have received expressions of interest to buy or merge the Irish business with a number of other players. Eircom has indicated that it was interested in taking part in the consolidation of the market.
Liberty Global, which owns UPC in Ireland, has also shown an interest as has giant private equity firm Blackstone. Eircom is 18 per cent owned by Blackstone.