The multinational company that owns Three UK is reportedly preparing to bid for O2.
According to the Sunday Times, Three owner Hutchison Whampoa is preparing a £9 billion bid for the country’s second biggest mobile network.
Telefonica, the Spanish company that owns O2, is said to be seeking an exit from the UK in order to pay off some of its debts.
This would be the second major UK network acquisition in recent months, if it goes ahead. Last month, BT agreed a £12.5 billion deal to acquire O2’s major rival, EE.
Prior to BT’s confirmation that it was to buy EE, it was revealed that the UK telecoms giant was eyeing up O2. Then EE entered the frame, and it seemed as if BT had the pick of the UK’s two biggest networks.
A small twist in the tale emerged in November when it was revealed that Three owner Hutchison Whampoa was looking to steal in on any possible deal.
At the time, it was widely thought that EE would be the more natural fit for the Three owner, thanks to an existing network-sharing deal between the two networks. But then, most people said that O2 was the better bet for BT on similar grounds, and look how that turned out.
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Hutchison Whampoa, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, has history with O2 as well. Back in 2013, the Three owner purchased O2 Ireland.
If this latest deal goes ahead and Three and O2 are merged, it would overtake EE as the UK’s biggest mobile network.