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Three may scupper BT’s bid of O2 or EE

The owner of the UK’s fourth biggest mobile network is considering a bid for either O2 or EE following interest from BT.

Throughout the week, reports have confirmed that UK telecoms giant BT is in preliminary talks with both O2 and EE over a possible acquisition.

This seems to have prompted other companies to enter the frame. One of those, according to Reuters, is Three owner Hutchison Whampoa. Apparently, the company could put forward a bid for one of the rival UK mobile networks by the end of the year.

While it might sound odd that the UK’s smallest mobile network is allegedly looking to swallow one of the country’s largest, it’s worth remembering that Hutchison Whampoa is a massive 150-year-old multi-national company with its fingers in a number of lucrative pies.

It’s thought that EE would be a more likely fit for Hutchison, given that Three and EE already cooperate on a network sharing agreement here in the UK. It’s also thought that O2 is a better fit for BT, so this would appear to be the tidier option.

EE will be the more expensive purchase, of course, as it’s currently valued at £11 billion next to O2’s £9.4 billion valuation. The greater size of EE will also cause more problems (for both BT and Hutchison/Three) with UK watchdogs on anti-competitive grounds, we suspect.

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