Hutchison Sees Regulatory Approval for Orange by ‘Mid-Year’

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. is counting on regulatory approval for its takeover of Austrian mobile operator Orange by the middle of this year, the company said today in a statement.

Hutchison, the telecommunications company owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, today submitted the deal to European Union regulatory authorities, the company said in an OTS statement.

Hutchison agreed to acquire Orange Austria in February in a deal valued at 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion). Hutchison plans to merge its Austrian 3 unit with Orange, making it the country’s third-biggest mobile provider after Telekom Austria AG and Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile Austria.

A side-deal, in which Telekom Austria is acquiring some of Orange’s assets and customers, requires regulatory approval in Austria and will be submitted later to allow both transactions to be signed off at about the same time, Hutchison said.

While Austria’s Federal Competition Authority has said the deal may have to be amended, Telekom Austria Chief Financial Officer Hans Tschuden said in February that he is confident that the company won’t have to make any divestitures.

Austria last month decided to postpone an auction for wireless spectrum scheduled for September citing the transaction.

“This takeover can’t be approved without restrictions,” T-Mobile Austria said in a separate statement following today’s announcement. An approval in the current form would grant Hutchison and Telekom Austria “unacceptable competitive advantages in building” a fourth generation long-term evolution, or LTE, network, the company said, calling for a “comprehensive reorganization of frequencies.”

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