Asia’s richest man tenders £10b for UK mobile giant

ASIA’S richest person, Li Ka-shing, is in talks to buy Britain’s second-largest mobile provider O2 for up to £10.25bn ($15.4bn) from Spain’s Telefonica.

His firm, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa, already owns the Three mobile network, and combining it with O2 would create the UK’s biggest mobile group.

However, the move could face tough scrutiny from competition regulators.

It would reduce the number of major operators in the UK from four to three, which might not benefit consumers.

Further consolidation within the telecommunications industry is already on the cards, with BT Group in talks to by rival operator EE.

If a deal is agreed it would have to be approved by competition regulators in Brussels.

Currently the UK mobile market is dominated by O2, EE, Vodafone and Three.

However, Hutchison Whampoa group finance director, Frank Sixt, pointed to deals in other countries, including Ireland, which were given the green light and which also reduced the number of competitors in the market from four to three.

“The European Commission has taken a positive view of four-to-three consolidations of mobile in three cases now…and we believe that the precedents that they have set in those transactions will apply for this transaction,” he said.

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