October 31, 2012 / 4:10 PM / in 5 years

Hutchison willing to sell spectrum for Orange Austria

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Hong Kong’s Hutchison 3G is willing to sell 2.6 GHz spectrum in Austria to win EU approval for its planned 1.3 billion euro ($1.69 billion) purchase of France Telecom’s FTE.PA Orange Austria, a person familiar with the matter said.

Antitrust regulators are worried that the deal to combine the two smallest mobile phone players in Austria may lead Hutchison to ditch its aggressive pricing policy after the merger and lead to higher prices for consumers.

The European Commission said last week that Hutchison, a unit of Hutchison Whampoa 0013.HK, which is controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, proposed concessions related to Orange Austria. But the Commission did not provide details.

The EU executive is now seeking feedback from interested parties on Hutchison’s proposal before deciding whether to accept it, said the person, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“The offer is conditional on a fourth operator coming forward to bid for frequencies and work as a network operator,” the person said.

Hutchison could not be immediately reached for comment.

    Earlier this month, EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia stepped up pressure on the company, telling Reuters he wanted it to sell assets such as frequencies on top of an earlier offer to open up its network to rivals at cost price.

    The Commission will decide by December 21 whether to clear the deal. Telekom Austria (TELA.VI) is the No. 1 operator in Austria, followed by Deutsche Telekom’s (DTEGn.DE) T-Mobile.

    $1 = 0.7705 euros) (Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Vienna; editing by Barbara Lewis and Jason Webb)

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