EU Expects to Issue Verdict on Irish Mergers in June

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The European Union expects to be able to issue its final verdict on the planned merger of two Irish mobile networks by the middle of June.

The head of the EU's anti-trust regulator, Joaquin Almunia confirmed that both Hutchison Whampoa and Telfonica O2 have offered concessions to secure regulatory approval to merge their two Irish subsidiaries.

Hutchison Whamoa is paying EUR850 million (USD1 billion) in cash upfront, with future payments of EUR70 million based on performance to buy the O2 network in Ireland.

Approval for the transaction had been expected next month, but the deadline was extended while the EU considered the new offers from the two mobile networks.

It's understood that Hutchison 3G Ireland has offered to sell some of its customer base and its radio spectrum in order to secure approval for its merger with a rival Irish mobile network.

The offers include setting up a new MVNO, which would later be able to buy some of the merged company's radio spectrum and customer base -- to become a conventional stand-alone network.

Hutchison has however repeatedly maintained that competition in Ireland will be better served by three credible operators with sufficient scale to compete for a total market of 4.6 million, than by the current market structure.

On the web: Irish Independent

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