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EU: Is Brussels moving towards blocking Three-O2 deal?

 |  April 17, 2016

Antitrust regulators in Brussels are moving towards blocking CK Hutchison’s £10.5bn deal to acquire O2, Telefonica’s British mobile business, unless additional concessions are offered, reports the Financial Times.

Two people close to the discussions said a draft decision by Europe’s antitrust watchdog to stop the deal is likely, in a regulatory test case that could send shockwaves through the continent’s telecoms industry.

The news comes days after the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority urged Brussels to block the acquisition. The move followed similar protests by Ofcom, Britain’s telecoms regulator, which has come out against the merger. One person close to the deal described the CMA’s intervention as helpful and in line with thinking in Brussels.

Margrethe Vestager, EU competition commissioner, said on Wednesday that she would take account of resistance in Britain. UK regulators fear the proposed merger of O2 with Hutchison’s Three could harm consumers by reducing competition and lead to increased prices.

“They work the same way as we do, so of course I take due note of what the regulators and the competition authority has said in this case,” Ms Vestager said, although she stressed that a final decision had not been taken.

British competition officials want Hutchison to carve off part of its business to create a fourth mobile operator to replace O2, a view which has support within the commission.

Full Content: Financial Times

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