Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa says its 3-branded mobile business will continue to aggressively look at acquiring rivals in Europe – but has warned it could walk away from a proposed deal in Austria if regulators study the deal for too long. 

“If there is ever a consolidation to be done, then we are the consolidator, not the consolidated,” group managing director Canning Fok said in Vienna yesterday, reports Bloomberg. “We’ll end up being the surviving leader. I’m not interested in anything less.”

In Austria, the firm is attempting to merge its local unit (3 Austria) with rival Orange Austria as part of a EUR1.3 billion deal. The deal would reduce the number of players in the market from four to three, creating a strong challenger to Telekom Austria’s A1 and Deutsche Telekom’s T-Mobile.

The European Commission opened a full antitrust probe into the deal in July. Fok said that Hutchison will seek a judicial review if the transaction is blocked but won’t commit to the plan for an unlimited time.

“The longer the process takes, the weaker the business case will be,” he told reporters yesterday.

He added that 3 Austria was prepared to let others access its network as MVNOs in order to ensure competition in the market.

Meanwhile, Fok said that 3’s European businesses were benefiting in the continent’s financial crisis due to customers seeking out its low-cost deals. The group has almost 30 million European customers.  

“In good times, people don’t see the value that we’re offering as that relevant,” Fok said. “But in times like this, it’s very good for us. We have growth.”