The European Commission (EC) has presented Hutchison 3G Ireland (3 Ireland) with a list of objections to its proposed acquisition of the country’s number two cellco, Telefonica O2. In a press release 3 Ireland said that it is analysing the EC’s statement and ‘will be responding to the Commission’s concerns’, with the firm likely to suggest a number of concessions to clear the way for the deal. The operator goes on to say that the EC’s move ‘was not unexpected’ given the regulator’s decision to investigate the tie-up and the fact that it will reduce the market from four players to three, with current market leader Vodafone and the combined 3/O2 having subscriber shares of approximately 40% each, while Eircom-backed Meteor will remain in third place with around 20%.
3 Ireland defends its move by saying: ‘The Irish mobile market is currently characterised by one clear dominant market leader with the three other operators lagging behind. Without 3’s acquisition of O2 Ireland and the scale it can achieve, this gap will only increase. Competition in Ireland will be better served by three credible operators with sufficient scale to compete for a total market of 4.6 million, than by the current market structure.’ The press release goes on to add: ‘In our view, the acquisition will increase competition and bring much needed investment to the Irish market.’ The operator says it will ‘continue to work with the Commission to achieve a positive outcome’. The EC’s competition watchdog is due to give a ruling on the proposed acquisition by 24 April, though the deadline can be extended depending on when 3 Ireland submits its suggested concessions.