HomeAnalysisEU court annuls Commission ban on British telecoms takeover

EU court annuls Commission ban on British telecoms takeover

An EU court has overturned a 2016 European Commission ban on a planned takeover of Telefonica’s O2 mobile operator in Britain by CK Hutchison Holdings, which owns the network Three.

The European Union’s General Court found on Thursday that the EU executive had not sufficiently proven there would be negative consequences for British consumers, and that its ban was unjustified.

In a 2016 assessment, EU officials had argued that the fusion of the two companies would reduce competition in the British market, and risked driving up prices and affecting quality for consumers.

O2 is the second-largest mobile operator in Britain
by revenues and the largest by subscribers. Combined with Three, it would control more than 40 per cent of the market.

The commission, which acts as the competition watchdog for the EU single market, now has two months to appeal the decision at the bloc’s highest court, the European Court of Justice.

For Hutchison, however, the decision could come too late.

The Spanish telecommunications group Telefonica recently announced that it now wants to transfer its mobile phone business in Britain to a joint venture with the U.S. media and telecommunications company Liberty Global.

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