EU extends H3G, Orange decision to 30 November; T-Mobile complains about regulatory conditions

31 Aug 2012

According to Reuters, European Union (EU) competition regulators have extended the deadline to decide whether to clear a EUR1.4 billion (USD1.87 billion) bid by Hutchison 3G Austria (H3G) for France Telecom-Orange’s Austrian mobile unit by three days to 30 November. A person familiar with the matter said that respondents to a European Commission (EC) request for feedback from third parties had asked the EU regulator for more time due to public holidays.

Earlier this month Hong Kong-based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa and EU regulators reportedly agreed the basic principles of a competition concession that would allow Hutchison’s Austrian mobile unit H3G to take over its larger rival Orange Austria. H3G proposed opening up its mobile network to third parties as a way of encouraging new players to enter the market if it succeeds in its approach to buy Orange, which would cut the number of wireless operators in Austria from four to three.

In related news, Telecompaper reports that T-Mobile Austria has criticised the European regulators for not demanding conditions relating to the re-distribution of spectrum and antenna sites as part of its assessment of the projected merger. T-Mobile CEO Robert Chvatal has argued that the redistribution of spectrum and the sale of multiple antenna sites from H3G to A1 Telekom Austria will enable both operators to increase the speed of their respective Long Term Evolution (LTE) rollouts in an uncompetitive manner, prompting a ‘two-horse race’ in the wireless broadband market. H3G Austria CEO Jan Trionow retorted that T-Mobile has the most optimum spectrum of all Austria’s mobile operators since its October 2005 acquisition of tele.ring for EUR1.3 billion. Further, Trionow suggested that T-Mobile had the option of purchasing spectrum and base stations during the initial negotiations with A1 Telekom, but opted not to pursue that particular course of action. Going forward, if T-Mobile is interested in acquiring infrastructure, H3G will take its offer under consideration.