BRUSSELS Dec 12 Hong Kong's Hutchison 3G
secured EU regulatory approval on Wednesday for its planned 1.3
billion euro ($1.69 billion) buy of France Telecom's
Orange Austria after agreeing to sell radio spectrum and open up
its network to new rivals.
The European Commission ruling will be a relief to the
telecoms sector, where operators had worried that regulators
would frown on mergers reducing the number of competitors in
Analysts said four-player markets like Germany and Spain
were ripe for consolidation that could help to offset falling
sales and profits.
The European Commission, which acts as the competition
authority in the 27-member European Union, said in a statement
that Hutchison 3G's proposals addressed its concerns.
"The risks posed by more concentration in national mobile
telephony markets cannot be ignored," EU Competition
Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said.
"The commitments proposed by H3G ensure that competition is
preserved so that Austrian consumers continue to enjoy the
benefits of innovation and fair prices."
Hutchison, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa, which is
controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, promised to
sell radio spectrum and other rights to new entrants, the EU
antitrust authority said.
It also promised wholesale access for competitors to its
network, allowing up to 30 percent of its capacity for up to 16
mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs) in the next 10 years.
It will have to seal at least one deal before completing the
Hutchison is the smallest telecoms provider in Austria.
Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile is the No. 2.
($1 = 0.7693 euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; editing by Rex Merrifield)