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3 Ireland offer concessions in O2 buy

Wednesday, March 05 16:21:12

Hutchison Whampoa, owners of mobile operator, Three Ireland, has offered concessions to counter European Union regulatory concerns about its proposed $1 billion bid for Telefonica's 02 Ireland unit, the European Commission said today.

Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison, controlled by Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing, is seeking to boost its position in Europe via a series of acquisitions.

Its latest takeover offer however has fuelled regulatory worries that the deal, which reduces the number of mobile telephony operators from four to three in Ireland, may lead to higher consumer prices.

Hutchison offered concessions yesterday, European Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, said, adding that the deadline for a decision on whether to clear the deal or not had been extended until May 19.

A Hutchison spokesman declined to comment.

Hutchison is prepared to sell radio spectrum and continue a network sharing agreement with rival eircom's subsidiary Meteor, the third biggest operator in Ireland, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters last month.

Vodafone is the market leader in Ireland.

The Commission's decision is expected to show how tough it will be on a much bigger telecoms deal in Germany where Telefonica Deutschland wants to buy KPN's E-Plus unit for 8.6 billion euros.