The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) triggered a clause that could see it lead the probe into Hutchison’s proposed acquisition of Telefonica O2, rather than the European Commission (EC).
The antitrust regulator confirmed it has made a request to the EC to refer the proposed acquisition to the CMA for investigation, after Hutchison requested European regulatory approval for the deal last month.
Shortly after Hutchison’s submission, the CMA said it was seeking feedback on making the so called “Article 9” request, which under EU Merger Regulation allows member states to apply to consider mergers nationally.
In a statement, CMA confirmed the move, stating it had received support from industry participants over the request.
Its initial view, following consultation and preliminary analysis, “is that the transaction threatens to affect significantly competition in the UK retail and mobile and wholesale markets”.
“It is appropriate for the case to be referred to the CMA for investigation because any impact on competition resulting from the merger will likely be limited to UK consumers,” it added.
The UK watchdog is also already in the process of investigating BT’s proposed £12.5 billion acquisition of operator EE in the UK, and further claimed it would be more “efficient” to lead investigation into Hutch’s O2 merger, “given clear links between the two cases”.
The EC will now reportedly assess the request, before making a decision before 30 October. According to Reuters, such requests from other national regulators have been rejected in the past.