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Towards the end of last year, the UK mobile industry was abuzz with activity at the news BT was looking to make their way back into the mobile arena. Since then, British Telecom entered a bid of £12.5 Billion to purchase EE, the UK’s largest network provider. While that deal has yet to get the full go ahead, it looks like O2 UK might have found itself a new buyer in the form of Three UK’s owner, Hutchison Whampoa. Many of you might not have heard of Hutchison Whampoa, owned by Hong Kong billionaire, Li Ka-shiang, but the company has been in the UK mobile industry for a long time now. With word they’re ready to put in a bid of £9 Billion ($13.6 Billion) to purchase O2 from Telefonica (something I optimistically predicted last year), they might become a much larger force this year.
According to the Sunday Times, Hutchison Whampoa has hired Moelis & Co (MC) to look for opportunities to expand in the UK, and with EE seemingly secured by BT, O2 is looking like an easy target. Telefonica appears ready to leave the UK with their UK network, O2, currently in debt and have hired the investment bank UBS AG to “explore options”. The word is that Mr Ka-Shiang is currently looking to consolidate his assets overseas while also expand further. Purchasing O2, one of the UK’s larger networks to unite the two networks would certainly be one way of doing just that.
This wouldn’t be the first time in recent memory that Hutchison Whampoa expands in the UK. Recently, a £650 Million deal secured O2’s Ireland network to be combined with the rest of Three UK. At the time of writing, nobody from Telefonica, Hutchison Whampoa, O2 or Three UK has issued a comment to the Sunday Times, who originally broke the story, and it all sounds like murmurings right now. Uniting Three UK and O2 would certainly be an interesting move with Three offering unlimited data packages and attractive roaming plans for UK travelers.