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EU: Antitrust chief rejects Three-O2 merger in UK

 |  May 11, 2016

UK mobile operator Three’s multi-billion pound bid to merge with O2 has been rejected by competition officials in Brussels.

There were “significant competition concerns with this deal” which “would very likely have led to higher prices and less choice for mobile consumers,” the EU’s antitrust commissioner Margrethe Vestager said during a press conference.

She claimed that the deal, which was valued at £10.25 billion, would have harmed the UK’s mobile sector, as it is presently an “advanced” EU nation in terms of 4G rollout and technology.

“If the takeover had gone ahead, this would have changed for the worse,” Vestager said. A combined Three and O2 would have been the mobile market leader with a share of 40 percent. As it currently stands, she added, Three is “an important driver” for competition in the UK.

Three’s parent—Hong Kong conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd—said in a statement that it would consider a legal challenge to the decision:

“We are deeply disappointed by the commission’s decision to prohibit the merger between Three UK and O2 UK. We will study the commission’s decision in detail and will be considering our options, including the possibility of a legal challenge.

We strongly believe that the merger would have brought major benefits to the UK, not only by unlocking £10 billion of private sector investment in the UK’s digital infrastructure but also by addressing the country’s coverage issues, enhancing network capacity, speeds and price competition for consumers and businesses across the country and dealing with the competition issues arising from the current significant imbalance in spectrum ownership between the UK’s MNOs [mobile network operators].”

Full Content: CNBC

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