BRUSSELS Dec 6 EU regulators will decide on
Hutchison 3G's planned 1.3 billion euro bid for France Telecom's
Orange Austria next week, the EU's antitrust chief said
on Thursday, in a sign the deal is likely to be approved.
Clearance of the proposed acquisition could trigger a wave
of consolidation in the telecoms sector. Telecoms firms and
investors have been worried that regulators will not look kindly
on mergers reducing the number of operators in national markets.
Hutchison, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa, which is
controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, has offered to
sell 2.6 GHz spectrum and open its network to rivals at cost
price, to try to win EU approval.
"There will be a telecoms case next week," EU Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia told Reuters on the sidelines of an
American Chamber of Commerce conference in Brussels, referring
to the Hutchison/Orange Austria deal.
The European Commission briefed national competition
regulators on the case last month. Such briefings typically
indicate EU approval is expected.
If the Commission's antitrust regulators were demanding more
concessions, they would already have informed Hutchison of the
objections, which is not the case, according to a person close
to the deal.
Hutchison is the smallest mobile operator in Austria and
Orange Austria the second-smallest. Telekom Austria is
the market leader, followed by Deutsche Telekom's