The European Commission (EC) has declined a request from Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to review CK Hutchison’s planned acquisition of Telefonica Europe, owner of O2 UK, by pointing out that it is ‘better placed’ to ensure consistency in the application of merger control rules in the EU telecoms market, given its extensive experience in assessing cases in the sector. The EC, which opened an in-depth investigation of the deal in October this year, has until 16 March 2016 to make a final decision on the matter.
As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Hong Kong-based Hutchison entered into an agreement with Spain’s Telefonica to buy its subsidiary O2 UK for GBP9.25 billion (USD14 billion) in March 2015 and filed an application seeking approval of its bid to the EC in October. Shortly after, the CMA requested to review the case, claiming that the transaction ‘threatens to affect significantly competition in the UK retail mobile and wholesale mobile markets’. The watchdog highlighted that it would be appropriate for the tie-up to be referred to it for investigation because any impact on competition resulting from the merger will likely be limited to UK consumers.