Australia regulator OKs Vodafone, Hutchison merger

SYDNEY, May 29 (Reuters) - The Australian competition watchdog has approved a merger of the Australian arms of mobile phone companies Vodafone VOD.L and Hutchison Whampoa 0013.HK, the regulator said on Friday.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said the deal is unlikely to substantially lessen competition.

In a deal announced on Feb. 9, Vodafone's Australian arm and Hutchison Telecom HTA.AX will form a joint venture operating under the Vodafone brand, with 6 million customers.

The new mobile operator will be of a sufficient scale to challenge the two dominant phone companies, incumbent Telstra Corp TLS.AX and Optus, a unit of Singapore Telecommunications STEL.SI, Vodafone and Hutchison said in February. ($1=1.28 Australian Dollar) (Reporting by Adrian Bathgate)