Hutchison’s 3 Ireland submitted a number of potential “remedies” to the European Commission (EC) to allay concerns about its proposed acquisition of Telefonica’s O2 Ireland.
The company confirmed the move to Mobile World Live, adding that the remedies “have been sent to interested parties for market testing”. It reaffirmed that it will continue to work with the Commission to gain clearance for the acquisition as soon as possible.
The EC announced in November that it would conduct a further investigation into the €850 million bid by Hutchison Whampoa for Telefonica O2’s Irish unit. The deal would see 3 move from last place to second spot, narrowly behind Vodafone Ireland.
In February, 3 Ireland confirmed it had received a Statement of Objections from the European Commission regarding the deal.
Although 3 Ireland wouldn’t provide details on the exact nature of the remedies, recent reports suggested they include setting up a new MVNO, which would later be able to buy some of the merged company’s radio spectrum and customer base and become a conventional stand-alone network.
Sources told Reuters in February that Hutchison is also prepared to sell radio spectrum and continue a network sharing agreement with rival Eircom’s subsidiary Meteor, the third-biggest operator in Ireland.
3 Ireland previously argued that its acquisition of O2 will improve competition in the Irish market, which has one dominant player (Vodafone) and three others lagging behind. It argued that the gap to the market leader will grow if 3 and O2 do not merge.
It added that the acquisition would give the combined company “the scale and financial strength” to compete “aggressively” in the market to benefit consumers. It would also allow it to roll out LTE services.
The Irish deal and another in Germany (where Telefonica Deutschland wants to buy KPN’s E-Plus unit) are seen as key in the mobile industry for establishing whether the European Commission is prepared to allow in-market consolidation.
The EC has set a deadline of 24 April to reach a decision on the Ireland deal.