The owner of UK mobile operator Three has agreed terms with Telefonica over a buyout of rival company O2, it was confirmed on Tuesday.
The deal, which follows a period of exclusive talks between the two companies, will see O2 join the Hutchison Whampoa stable for a fee which may rise as high as £10.25 billion.
The accord, which will create the UK's largest mobile network with 30 million total customers, is subject to approval from regulators, but is likely to be rubber stamped later this year.
As yet it is unclear whether the new owners plan to roll the O2 brand and its services into Three or keep it alive as a separate entity.
The deal, which was confirmed by O2 on its official blog on Tuesday, will leave the UK with just three major mobile network operators in EE, Vodafone and the new O2/Three company.
The deal also comes as BT looks to finalise its agreement to buy EE, which itself is a relatively recent amalgamation of the Orange and T-Mobile brands.
Confirming news of the agreement, O2 wrote: “Hutchison Whampoa has today agreed definitive terms to acquire O2 in the UK from Telefónica. The deal agreed is the result of a period of exclusive discussions between the two companies. Closing of the deal is subject to regulatory approvals, but would bring together two respected mobile businesses in the UK.
“O2’s vision has always been to provide the very best customer experience. This deal will – subject to merger clearance – result in the creation of the most customer-centric mobile operator in the UK. We are pleased to be integral to such an exciting ambition and are confident that as a result of the deal, UK customers will benefit from greater value, quality and innovation. We also fully expect that new and exciting opportunities will open up for employees of both businesses.
“The deal is subject to regulatory approvals which might take up to a year. In the meantime, our priority is to continue to look after our customers, delivering the very best experience that they have come to expect from O2.”