T-Mobile expects OK for Austrian mobile merger deal

VIENNA Mon Nov 5, 2012 8:48am EST

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VIENNA (Reuters) - The head of Deutsche Telekom's (DTEGn.DE) T-Mobile Austria unit expects rivals to get the regulatory green light for an agreed takeover that would reduce the number of domestic players to three, he said on Monday.

Hong Kong's Hutchison 3G, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa (0013.HK), hopes to win EU and Austrian approval for its planned 1.3 billion euro ($1.67 billion) purchase of France Telecom's FTE.PA Orange Austria.

"We think the merger will be realized," T-Mobile Austria Chief Executive Andreas Bierwirth told reporters.

While opinions on the deal have fluctuated over the past weeks, "in the past few days I have got more of a signal that it will happen", he said without giving any more details.

Last week a person familiar with the matter said Hutchison 3G was willing to sell 2.6 GHz spectrum in Austria to win EU approval.

It has also proposed opening up its mobile network to third parties, letting new players enter the market.

Antitrust regulators are worried that the deal to combine the two smallest mobile phone players in Austria may lead Hutchison to ditch its aggressive pricing policy after the merger and lead to higher prices for consumers.

The Commission will decide by December 21 whether to clear the deal. Telekom Austria (TELA.VI) is the No. 1 operator in Austria, followed by T-Mobile.

As part of the deal Orange has agreed to sell its budget mobile brand Yesss to Telekom Austria, a deal that needs Austrian regulatory approval.

($1 = 0.7785 euros) (Reporting by Angelika Gruber; Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by David Cowell)

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