VIENNA Nov 22 European Union anti-trust
regulators are set to brief national authorities next week on
Hutchison's planned takeover of Orange Austria, in a move likely
to signal EU approval for the deal.
The Austrian competition regulator, the BWB, said it and all
the other EU national regulators had been invited to a meeting
in Brussels on Nov. 27, at which the BWB planned to voice its
concerns about the merger to the European Commission.
The calling of such a meeting is normally a signal that the
Commission itself has no further issues, and subsequent approval
is generally a formality.
The BWB said it intended to make sure that its concerns
about consumer protection were heard.
"We do still have concerns," a spokewoman for the BWB told
Reuters. "We don't believe that all our concerns have been
addressed. We want to make sure that there is no harm to
The Commission is not obliged to take into account the
opinions of the advisory committee of national regulators, but
will publish them alongside its final decision.
The 1.3 billion euro ($1.7 billion) acquisition agreed in
February would reduce the number of mobile operators in Austria
to three from four, although the combined carrier would still be
the country's smallest with market share under 25 percent.
Hutchison Whampoa's Austrian unit is currently the
smallest of the country's mobile operators, and Orange
the second-smallest. The market is led by Telekom Austria
, followed by Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile.
The EU decision will be scrutinised by investors and telecom
bosses across Europe because of the wider implications it is
likely to have for the future prospects for consolidation in
much larger four-player markets like Germany and Spain.
Teliasonera is now seeking to sell Spain's smallest
mobile player Yoigo, and two other Spanish operators, France
Telecom and Vodafone, are examining possible bids that
would take the market from four to three players.
Executives of KPN, Vodafone and France Telecom
among others have called on Brussels to change their tough
stance on telecom mergers so as to allow the companies to find
solutions to shrinking sales and profits.
A Commission spokesman said the body never commented on
current merger investigations.
"This is an ongoing investigation and we will take a
decision on Dec. 21," he said.