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Hutchison Austrian Mobile Takeover Clears Last Regulatory Hurdle

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (13)’s planned 1.3 billion-euro ($1.7 billion) purchase of wireless carrier Orange Austria is set to clear the last hurdle after the country’s competition watchdog gave up its opposition today.

The Bundeswettbewerbsbehoerde won’t appeal the approval by Austria’s cartel court of a linked transaction in which Telekom Austria AG (TKA) is buying Orange’s discount brand Yesss!, the agency also known as BWB said in an e-mailed statement today. While the BWB still has objections to the deal, an appeal wouldn’t be successful because it can’t challenge the evidence cited by the court, it said.

“The decision of the first instance is faulty, but it can’t be challenged with the prospect of success at the higher cartel court,” the BWB said in the statement. “An appeal would only cause unnecessary delays but eventually wouldn’t yield anything.”

Hutchison, controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, agreed in February to combine its Three Austria unit with Orange to create the Alpine country’s third-biggest mobile-phone operator. Hutchison won European Union approval last week after agreeing to divest radio spectrum and offer network access to new rivals. Orange is owned jointly by France Telecom SA (FTE) and Mid Europa Partners.

Telekom Austria rose as much as 1.5 percent to 5.74 euros and traded at 5.71 euros as of 1:09 p.m. in Vienna. Hutchison lost 0.4 percent to close at HK$80.65 in Hong Kong.

The sale of Yesss! to Telekom Austria for 390 million euros is “an integral part” of the Hutchison bid for Orange Austria, Hutchison’s Austrian head Jan Trionow has said. Austria’s cartel court approved the Yesss! deal without conditions last month.

To contact the reporter on this story: Boris Groendahl in Vienna at bgroendahl@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Frank Connelly at fconnelly@bloomberg.net

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