The UK’s antitrust watchdog is seeking market feedback on the long-anticipated merger of Vodafone Group Plc and CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd’s British units before it kicks-off a formal investigation.
(Bloomberg) — The UK’s antitrust watchdog is seeking market feedback on the long-anticipated merger of Vodafone Group Plc and CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd’s British units before it kicks-off a formal investigation.
The Competition and Markets Authority said Wednesday it will provide an opportunity for rival firms and interested parties to comment on what impact the combination could have on competition in the UK.
“We will also assess how it may affect incentives to invest in the quality of UK mobile networks,” said Sarah Cardell, chief executive officer of the CMA.
Read more: The Fate of Vodafone-Three Merger Lies With One Key UK Regulator
The deal to buy Three would create the UK’s largest mobile operator by revenue could face a significant challenge in getting sign-off from the UK watchdog, which has taken a tough stance against antitrust issues in recent years. The most recent example was the tough regulatory assessment of Microsoft Corp.’s $69 billion takeover of game maker Activision Blizzard Inc.
“We want to build one of Europe’s leading 5G networks and believe the combination of Vodafone UK and Three UK will be great for customers, the country and competition,” a Vodafone spokesperson said.
A bid from Three to buy O2 was thwarted in 2016 by the European regulator, which made the decisions for the UK pre-Brexit. One of the main reasons the deal was blocked was because it would reduce the number of UK mobile network operators from four to three — the same outcome as this deal.
It’s also expected to draw a review from the UK’s new national security regime, which has the power to veto the deal. The government screens the security implications of deals involving sensitive technologies including telecommunications.
(Updates with more details from paragraph five)
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