EU seeks feedback to Hutchison concessions for 02 Ireland buy

BRUSSELS, March 20 Thu Mar 20, 2014 2:02pm EDT

BRUSSELS, March 20 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are seeking industry feedback over concessions offered by Hutchison Whampoa to secure approval for its $1 billion bid for Telefonica's 02 Ireland, two people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa submitted fresh concessions to the European Commission earlier this week after a March 5 proposal failed to satisfy the European Union authority, said one of the people, declining to provide details.

The company 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.

Hutchison, controlled by Asia's richest man, Li Ka-shing, wants to reinforce its position in Europe where it operates in six national markets.

The deal is a sign of how tough the European Commission will be on telecoms mergers, especially over a bigger deal in Germany where Telefonica Deutschland wants to buy KPN's E-Plus for 8.6 billion euros.

Both deals would reduce the number of players in their respective markets from four to three, a figure which regulators fear would result in reduced competition and higher prices for consumers.

A Hutchison spokesman confirmed the start of the Commission's market test. Commission spokesman for competition policy, Antoine Colombani, declined to comment.

Depending on the market test, the Commission could either demand more concessions from Hutchison or clear the deal. It has set a May 18 deadline for its decision. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)