Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., seeking regulatory support to acquire Orange’s Austrian unit, offered access to its mobile-phone network to Liberty Global Inc.’s UPC unit, two people familiar with the matter said.
UPC Austria GmbH, the country’s largest cable-television operator, will be allowed to use to Hutchison’s systems to provide service as a mobile virtual-network operator, the people said under condition of anonymity because details of the deal aren’t public.
Hutchison wants to buy the Austrian unit of Orange for 1.3 billion euros ($1.6 billion) and is looking at concessions to alleviate European Commission concerns that the deal will cut the number of mobile operators in the country to three. Jan Trionow, the head of Hutchison 3G Austria, said yesterday that his company would offer attractive terms to a virtual operator, which he wouldn’t name because it doesn’t want to be identified.
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. Austria’s competition authority is separately probing a side deal to the Orange purchase, in which Telekom Austria plans to acquire about 700,000 clients using Orange via the Yesss! discount brand. Orange Austria is 35 percent owned by France Telecom SA and 65 percent by U.K. private-equity firm Mid Europa Partners.
The Hutchison offer to UPC was reported in today’s edition of Austrian newspaper Die Presse.