Telefonica wants to be free of an exclusivity agreement with CK Hutchison, as it considers options for its O2 UK business.
According to the Financial Times, Telefonica is looking to move on despite the two firms having previously agreed an exclusive period for their talks, running until the end of June. If the firms agree to end exclusivity earlier then Telefonica is free to consider its next move.
A decision to end the agreement could come from the two companies as soon as this week. Neither have yet made a public comment. It would follow a rejection of the proposed merger by the European Commission in May.
Post-Hutch options for Telefonica include a full or partial sale, as well as a flotation, of its UK business, although the Spanish firm’s immediate priority is the listing of Telxius, its infrastructure business. This could happen as soon as July.
There is no shortage of potential bidders if the decision is made in favour of a trade sale. These include former executives backed by private equity firms, in addition to Liberty Global and Sky.
Telefonica chairman Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete (pictured) said earlier this month that the group was entering “a period of reflection” regarding its UK business. He has also said that Telefonica UK might even be kept, although that seems the least likely option right now.