Reuters reports that European Union (EU) competition regulators have set a 20 June 2014 deadline to rule on whether or not to green-light Hutchison Whampoa’s proposed EUR780 million (USD1.08 billion) bid for Telefonica’s O2 Ireland mobile business, in the wake of the receipt of further details from the Hong Kong conglomerate concerning concessions over the deal. Last month, CommsUpdate reported that the EU competition authorities had previously announced their intentions to rule on the O2 Ireland deal by May, but 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 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 mobile virtual network operators (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 which would initially see it launch as a reseller before introducing a full-blown network operation.
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