U.K. CMA Seeks to Take 02-Hutchison Mobile Review From EU

  • CMA says those affected are likely to be U.K. consumers
  • EU Commission usually rejects such requests in phone deals

Britain’s antitrust regulator triggered a possible tug-of-war with the European Union over who should probe CK Hutchison Holdings’ plan to acquire Telefonica SA’s O2 unit in the U.K.

The Competition and Markets Authority said Friday it asked the European Commission for jurisdiction over the review because the deal’s impact would be most felt by U.K. customers. The commission in Brussels has already started to examine the tie-up and set a Oct. 16 deadline for an initial decision.

Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison agreed to acquire the O2 unit in March, creating Britain’s biggest wireless provider by customers. The CMA said It’s received support from the telecoms industry in making the request, according to the statement.

Given the clear links with a separate deal it’s probing between BT Group Plc and EE Ltd. "it would be more efficient to also examine the merger between Three and O2, in particular to avoid duplication and fragmentation.” the CMA said.

The European Commission generally rejects such requests, as it develops ground rules for mobile-phone competition. EU regulators spurned a similar U.K. bid for jurisdiction over the deal that created EE five years ago.

“We have had open and constructive discussions with both the European Commission and the relevant authorities in the U.K. over several months,” Hutchison said in a statement. “We remain confident that the proposed acquisition will be cleared.”

The commission said by e-mail it “has received the referral request and will assess it."

An O2 spokesman declined to comment, referring questions to Hutchison.

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