The European Commission (EC) is expected to issue a final ruling on Hutchison Whampoa’s bid for O2 Ireland – as well as for a separate plan for Telefonica to merge its German unit with KPN of the Netherlands’ E-Plus subsidiary – by the middle of June, according to competition chief Joaquin Almunia speaking to reporters in Marrakesh. The Irish Independent notes that the European Union (EU) had previously announced its intentions to rule on the O2 Ireland deal by May, but has postponed that deadline to more thoroughly examine the ramifications. With concerns having been raised over a reduction on competition in the Irish market if the two merge, Hutch – which already owns network operator 3 Ireland – has offered to help in the setting up of a new market entrant, in a bid to assuage the authorities and clear the EUR780 million (USD1.08 billion) takeover of O2 Ireland. Under its plan, 3 Ireland would provide the would-be newcomer full control of parts of its own network, along with the option to purchase part of its existing subscriber base. Further, it would also allow the new operator to access its 4G spectrum, giving it a leg-up over Irish MVNOs such as Tesco Mobile Ireland, which has around 200,000 users on its books. Irish cableco UPC Ireland is tipped as the most likely player to enter the wireless sector, having already commenced discussions with 3 Ireland over a possible deal.
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