EU probe Hutchinson O2 Ireland unit bid

EU anti-trust regulators will investigate whether Hutchison Whampoa’s $1.05bn (€780m) bid for Telefonica’s Irish unit will reduce competition in the mobile telephony market in Ireland, the European Commission said yesterday.

The move will put pressure on Hutchison to offer concessions, such as spectrum sales, or making it easier for rivals to access its network, to ease the regulatory concerns.

Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka Shing, unveiled the offer for Telefonica’s 02 Ireland unit in June to boost its presence in Europe.

Reuters reported on Oct 23 that the Commission would open an in-depth investigation into the acquisition.

The EU competition authority, which did a preliminary review of the deal in the last month, said the deal may have a negative impact on rivals and lead to higher prices.

“The commission has concerns that the transaction would remove an important competitive force and change the merged entity’s incentive to exert significant competitive pressure on the remaining competitors,” it said in a statement.

The acquisition would quadruple the market share of Hutchison’s subsidiary, 3 Ireland, to 37.5%, behind market leader Vodafone.

The commission said it would decide by Mar 24 whether to clear the deal.

In statement issued last night, 3 Ireland said it believes that the merger of O2 Ireland’s business with 3 Ireland will be good for both competition and consumers and is confident that the merger will be approved.



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