The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is considering a so-called Article 9 request to the European Commission (EC) that would see it investigate CK Hutchison’s bid for Telefonica’s O2 UK, rather than Brussels.
The request follows last week’s submission by Hutchison of its bid for approval to the EC.
The CMA is asking for comments about whether it should make an Article 9 request. The deadline is 24 September.
Debate about whether the EC or a national regulator investigates M&A is not uncommon. Jurisdiction is not always clear cut. The timing in this case is unusual. Hutchison’s agreement to acquire O2 UK was signed at the end of March. Mobile World Live asked Hutchison about why approaching the regulatory authorities took nearly six months but has not had a response.
By comparison, BT’s bid for EE was initiated in a similar timeframe to the Hutch-O2 deal, but scrutiny is at a more advanced stage. The BT-EE deal is being considered by the CMA.
Article 9 of the EU Merger Regulation (EUMR) enables member states to apply to consider mergers and takeovers nationally, in whole or part, depending on their geographic scope.
If the UK did make an Article 9 request, and it was granted by the commission, the CMA would examine the Hutch-O2 deal to decide whether it should be referred for in-depth investigation.
In its consultation, the CMA is seeking views on whether it should investigate the Hutch-O2 deal, and whether the combination would lead to a significant lessening of competition in the UK.