Two months ago, we learned that Hutchison Whampoa was making a bid for Telefonica's O2 in a bid to take the market leadership spot in the UK. It seems the due diligence went well, as the word now is that an announcement of a finalized £10.5B deal is in the offing.
Hutchison would combine O2 with its existing Three business, boosting its marketshare above that of EE - which is currently being sold to BT. And if both deals make it through the regulatory minefields ahead, the UK will go from 4 to 3, become a whole lot more familiar with Asia's richest man, Li Ka-Shing, and see its incumbent landline operator back in the mobile game.
And yet, will it all go through? The objections are sure to have some muscle behind them, both from advocates of greater competition and Vodafone, which is unlikely to be happy to be #3 behind an aggressive billionaire and an incumbent with big plans use its infrastructure for synergies. Given the scale of the potential changes to the competitive landscape, it's going to be a lively debate.
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