Telefonica’s O2 deal goes under EU investigation

European flagHutchison Whampoa will face an extensive EU investigation over its bid for Telefonica’s British unit.

Apparently the company is prepared to sell network capacity and frequencies to head off antitrust concerns.

Hutchison’s $16 billion acquisition of Telefonica’s O2 business would make it the top mobile operator in Britain. But the Commission wants a tougher line on telecoms mergers, including forcing companies to divest infrastructure network.

It is worried that we could end up like the US with a small number of telecos who can more or less do what they like.

Hutchison, owned by Asia’s richest man, Li Ka-shing wants the deal as part of an expansion into   Europe.

The EU competition authority had previously set an October 16 deadline for its preliminary review of the deal.

It is now expected to follow that up with an extensive investigation because of the case’s complexity, according to the sources familiar with the matter. A full-scale or so-called phase-two investigation lasts around five months.

Hutchison may have to sell parts of the combined entity’s network capacity and frequencies – or spectrum – to get the green light.  Sources indicate it is prepared to do so.