British mobile operator O2 has reportedly been eyed up by Hong Kong biz baron Li Ka-shing, with a takeover bid of up to £9bn apparently being floated.
The owner of Hutchison Whampoa, which controls UK mobe carrier Three, has been in tentative talks with Telfonica-run O2, according to a report in today's Sunday Times (£), which cited anonymous city sources.
Such an acquisition – if agreed by the pair and then approved by regulators – would further consolidate the mobile market, after BT, the former owner of O2, inked a preliminary deal to scoop up EE for £12.5bn late last year.
EU competition watchdogs snuffed out a initial takeover plan of O2 Ireland from Hutchison Whampoa last year. It was later waved through, following concessions from the swiftly expanding Hong Kong firm.
It operates in the UK, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Ireland through its subsidiary 3 Group Europe – which controls Three in the UK – as well as holding telecoms interests in Honkers, Macau, Indonesia, Vietnam and Sri Lanka.
In April last year, Hutch ruled out making a bid for O2 in Blighty, when its UK boss Dave Dyson was quoted as saying: "We don’t need to consolidate with anybody." ®