LONDON Feb 3 The owners of EE, Britain's biggest mobile network, are close to appointing banks to advise on a flotation, The Sunday Times reported, citing industry and banking sources.
EE was created when France Telecom combined its Orange brand in Britain with Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile in 2010.
Initially, the companies struggled to realise the efficiencies expected from the merger, but the situation has improved in the last year, and the group launched Britain's first superfast 4G mobile network in October.
The Sunday Times said the companies were weeks away from appointing advisers for an IPO, with Morgan Stanley expected to be the lead underwriter and JP Morgan and Barclays also taking prominent roles.
Both companies were expected to sell 25 percent of the venture for more than 1 billion pounds ($1.6 billion) each in a London listing that could come in the final quarter of the year, the newspaper said.
Both companies have previously told investors that an IPO of the business was a possibility.
A spokeswoman for Deutsche Telekom declined to comment on the report.
However, she said that while both companies remained long-term partners in EE, an IPO was a preferred option.
"DT and FT are very confident in the management strategy which aims to strengthen EE's leading position in the UK, leverage on the largest 3G network and first 4G network roll-out, further progress the integration of T-Mobile and Orange and increase the profitability of this business in the coming years," she said.
"In that respect DT and FT have decided to conduct a strategic review on the asset and consider different options with an IPO as the preferred option."
A spokeswoman for France Telecom also declined to comment on the report, but she added that the company remained happy with the progress of EE.