CK Hutchison is pressing ahead with its £10.25 billion bid for UK rival Telefonica O2 UK, even as TeliaSonera and Telenor made a surprise decision to drop merger plans in Denmark.
The European Commission (EC) confirmed to Mobile World Live that Hutchison 3G UK submitted its Telefonica UK bid for approval on 11 September.
The submission was made on the same day as TeliaSonera and Telenor pulled out of a merger in Denmark, having been unable to accommodate the EC’s demands for a fourth operator as a remedy.
As in Denmark, Hutchison’s bid for rival O2, if successful, will reduce the number of UK operators from four to three (not counting an EC-mandated newcomer).
Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager appears determined to make tough demands of operators in return for backing consolidation.
The provisional deadline for the commission making a decision on the Hutch/O2 deal is 16 October. The commission could choose to either clear the deal, with or without conditions, or open a more in-depth investigation if it considers the competition issues are sufficiently serious.
A Hutch-O2 merger would reduce the number of competitors in the UK from four to three. The other two operators are Vodafone and EE, which is in the process of being acquired by BT. The latter deal is being scrutinised by the UK’s Competition & Markets Authority (CMA), rather than the EC.