Hutchison Said to Win Approval for O2 Irish Deal Next Week

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. will win European Union approval to take over Telefonica SA’s O2 Ireland unit as soon as May 28 after a key EU panel backed the deal, according to two people familiar with transaction.

Officials from the EU’s national competition authorities met this week and gave their support to the European Commission’s plans to approve the deal, said the people who couldn’t be identified because the EU approval process isn’t public. National regulators’ decision, which isn’t binding, paves the way for the European Commission to grant final approval at its next meeting on Wednesday, the people said.

Liberty Global Plc’s UPC unit is poised to provide mobile phone services in Ireland, taking up Hutchison’s offer of network access that sought to allay EU regulatory concerns, two people said earlier this month. Hutchison’s concessions are designed to overcoming EU objections to the combination of two of Ireland’s four mobile operators.

Billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison agreed last year to buy O2 Ireland, the country’s No. 2 mobile operator, for as much as 850 million euros ($1.16 billion.) The deal would combine O2 with Hutchison’s Three Ireland, the third-largest wireless carrier.

Telefonica’s separate plan to merge its German unit with Royal KPN NV’s E-Plus is another tie-up that’s testing how far regulators are willing to allow consolidation in the telecommunications industry. Joaquin Almunia, the EU’s antitrust chief, has said such deals can’t come at the expense of higher prices for consumers.

Hutchison and O2 Ireland declined to comment, as did Antoine Colombani, a spokesman for the European Commission.

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