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Hutchison Makes New Offer in EU Review of Orange Austria Bid

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. made a new offer of concessions to European Union antitrust regulators probing its planned 1.3 billion-euro ($1.7 billion) purchase of mobile-phone operator Orange Austria.

The European Commission extended its deadline to rule on the deal to Dec. 21 after Hutchison offered commitments last week, it said in a website filing today. It didn’t give details of the offer.

EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia last week called on the company to make additional concessions and preferred a sale of spectrum, his spokesman said on Oct. 19. Hutchison’s August proposal to sell access to mobile virtual network operators in Austria didn’t prevent the EU antitrust agency sending it formal objections on the deal last month.

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.

Maritheres Paul, a spokeswoman for Hutchison in Vienna, confirmed that new concessions were filed on Oct. 19 and declined to comment on their content.

The company controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing agreed to buy Orange Austria in February. Managing director Canning Fok said in August 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 purchase subscribers of Orange Austria’s discount brand Yesss!.

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