Watchdog may take look at bid for O2

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the competition authority is considering weighing into Hutchison Whampoa’s bid for Telefonica’s mobile unit O2 UK, a deal that would cut the number of network operators to three and which was submitted for approval by the European Union’s competition regulator last week.

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said yesterday it would seek views from the industry on whether the merger would substantially lessen competition in the British mobile market.

If the CMA decides it could damage competition, it could ask the European Commission, the EU regulator, for the right to refer it back to the CMA for an in-depth investigation. The European Commission had said last week it would decide by October 16 whether to clear the deal.

Meanwhile, the UK authorities are proceeding with the vetting of a separate $20bn deal for BT, owner of the country’s biggest fixed line network, to acquire EE from its current owners Orange and Deutsche Telekom.

Last week the prospects of the O2 and Hutchison merger getting approved were thrown into doubt after European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager effectively blocked a plan by TeliaSonera and Telenor to combine forces in the Danish market because it would have reduced the number of operators there to three from four.