EU regulators stop clock on review of Hutchison, 02 Ireland deal

BRUSSELS, April 3 Thu Apr 3, 2014 12:34pm EDT

BRUSSELS, April 3 (Reuters) - European Union regulators have halted their review of Hutchison Whampoa's $1 billion bid for Telefonica's 02 Ireland as they wait for new details of Hutchison's concessions, the EU antitrust chief said on Thursday.

Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, which is controlled by Asia's richest man Li Ka-shing, submitted a revised package to the European Commission last month. The deal will reinforce its position in Europe.

Sources with knowledge of the case said the company is prepared to cede spectrum and customers to a smaller rival for free and to continue a network sharing agreement with competitor eircom's subsidiary Meteor, the third biggest operator in Ireland.

European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said the EU competition watchdog had suspended its review until further notice.

"In the Irish case, we have stopped the clock because essential information was discovered by us during the market test that was not provided before by the parties," he told a Studienvereinigung conference.

Hutchison spokesman Neil McMillan said the company had been asked for additional information on some aspects of its concessions.

"We will be getting back to them shortly," he said.

The Commission's May 19 deadline for a decision is now expected to be extended towards the end of the month. (Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Sophie Walker)

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