Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, which already owns Irish 3G-only mobile operator 3 Ireland, has asked European Union (EU) competition regulators to give the thumbs up to its planned takeover of another mobile operator, O2 Ireland, from Spain’s Telefonica. If ratified, the enlarged entity will be the second largest cellular services provider in the Republic. In a web site posting, the European Commission (EC) has said it will rule on the EUR780 million (USD1.1 billion) deal by 6 November. Reuters notes that in order to push the deal through, Hutch’s 3 Ireland subsidiary may have to make some concessions to EU regulators, given that the takeover will reduce the number of players in the domestic mobile market by one, to three. In other markets such a reduction in the level of competition has fuelled competition concerns: indeed, the Hong Kong firm – which is controlled by Asia’s richest man Li Ka Shing – had to relinquish mobile spectrum and promise rivals access to its network when its Austrian unit acquired Orange Austria recently.
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