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Two Irish Networks Close to Merger Following Regulatory Concessions

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European regulators are set to approve the planned merger of two Irish mobile networks having secured sufficient concessions to maintain competition in the market.

Hutchison Whampoa's Three is paying EUR850 million (USD1 billion) in cash to buy rival network, Telefonica O2, with future payments of EUR70 million based on performance -- and subject to regulatory clearance.

Regulators have expressed concerns about the concentration in the market, which would have effectively become a duopoly with a small third network, and has been seeking concessions from the companies to ensure that does not happen.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the Reuters news agency reported that the deal will be approve, as soon as a separate agreement is signed that would see the creation of a fourth mobile network.

Liberty Global's local subsidiary, UPC is preparing to launch an MVNO over the Three network, and Three has offered concessions that could help the MVNO transition into a full mobile network in the future.

That would preserve the level of competition in the market, but only if the MVNO were a commercial success in its own right.

Three will also have to maintain a roaming agreement with the smaller of the country's mobile networks, Meteor.

On the web: Reuters

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Tags: three  o2  hutchison whampoa  Ireland