EU regulators to investigate Hutchison, Telefonica’s Irish deal - ( 53L385 )

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – EU antitrust regulators will investigate whether Hutchison Whampoa’s $ 1 billion (622 million pounds) bid for Telefonica’s Irish unit will reduce competition in the mobile telephony market in Ireland, the European Commission said on Wednesday.

The move will put pressure on Hutchison to offer concessions such as spectrum sales or making it easier for rivals to access its network, to ease the regulatory concerns.

Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, controlled by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka Shing, unveiled the 780-million-euro ($ 1.05 billion) offer for Telefonica’s 02 Ireland unit in June to boost its presence in Europe.

Reuters reported on October 23 that the Commission would open an in-depth investigation into the acquisition.

The European Union competition authority, which did a preliminary review of the deal in the last month, said the deal may have a negative impact on rivals and lead to higher prices.

“The Commission has concerns that the transaction would remove an important competitive force and change the merged entity’s incentive to exert significant competitive pressure on the remaining competitors,” it said in a statement.

The acquisition would quadruple the market share of Hutchison’s subsidiary, 3 Ireland, to 37.5 percent, behind market leader Vodafone.

The Commission said it would decide by March 24 whether to clear the deal.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Barbara Lewis)


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