Another billionaire is on the move in Europe, adding territory to his empire and helping consolidate the wireless market further. Hutchison Whampoa, which is of course led by Hong Kong’s Li Ka-Shing, has followed through on the not-so-secret rumors and made a bid worth some $15B for O2, Telefonica’s UK wireless division.
If successful, Hutchison would be combining O2 with its existing UK wireless business, Three, which is the country’s #4 provider. The deal would vault Hutchison/Three/O2 to the largest wireless operator in the UK with a marketshare of over 40%. EE (which BT is now bidding for) would hold about a third, and Vodafone would make up most of the rest.
Telefonica has been looking to monetize O2 for some time now, as it seeks to retrench and refocus its businesses while improving its balance sheet. The $15B offer from Hutchison consists of some $13.9B in cash plus another $1.5B or so in deferred interest payments.
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