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Hutchison Offers Remedies to EU in Review of Orange Austria Deal

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. offered concessions to European Union antitrust regulators probing its planned 1.3 billion-euro ($1.6 billion) purchase of rival mobile-phone operator Orange Austria.

Jan Trionow, the chief executive officer of Hutchison 3G Austria, said he expects the European Commission to get feedback from rivals and customers on the offer by early September. The conditions offered to a mobile virtual network operator, which would buy network access from the unit to offer mobile-phone services, are “the most attractive ever” in the European phone industry, he said in an interview today.

The Brussels-based antitrust authority earlier said the companies had made an offer aiming to address antitrust concerns in a website filing today without giving details of the proposal. The deadline for a final ruling remains Nov. 27.

Regulators extended an investigation into the deal in June over concerns that it may reduce competition by cutting the number of mobile-phone operators in Austria to three from four. Hutchison 3G Austria is the smallest wireless operator in the country of 8.2 million people, where it competes with Orange, Telekom Austria AG and Deutsche Telekom AG’s T-Mobile.

The company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing agreed to buy Orange Austria in February. Managing director Canning Fok said last week that EU regulators were going “one step too far” by asking to renegotiate conditions for the deal which he said should be approved without delay. Hutchison is Li’s biggest company, with investments in telecommunications, ports, energy, retail and utilities in more than 50 countries.

Austria’s competition authority is separately probing a side deal to the Orange purchase, in which Telekom Austria plans to buy about 700,000 clients using Orange via the discount brand Yesss!.

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