Top Hutchison executive says UK telecoms regulator "is dreaming"

HONG KONG, March 17 (Reuters) - Canning Fok, a top official at CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd said on Thursday that the UK telecoms industry regulator “is dreaming” if it thinks that blocking a planned merger of Hutchison’s Three UK with rival O2 UK would prevent UK mobile prices from rising.

When asked what would happen if the proposed merger is blocked, Fok, group co-managing director of CK Hutchison said, “if that happened, then the price would increase. We stopped being the maverick in 2014 and started raising prices because of capacity concerns.”

Hutchison is seeking regulatory approval for its 10.25 billion pounds ($15 billion) deal to buy O2 UK from Spain’s Telefonica.

Fok said that Three UK currently has 12 percent of the radio spectrum and 42 percent of the data traffic in the UK.

Referring to comments made last month by Sharon White, the head of the UK regulator Ofcom on her fears that the merger might lead to higer prices in the UK market, Fok said, “What the UK Ofcom chief is hoping is that Three will continue to stay an independent, small company and compete. That is a dream.” ($1 = 0.6954 pounds) (Reporting by Clare Baldwin; Writing by Denny Thomas; Editing by Greg Mahlich)