Hutchison 'disappointed' as EU blocks its £10.3bn plan for takeover of 02
The European Commission has formally blocked mobile operator Hutchison's proposed £10.3bn takeover of O2.
Hutchison, which operates Three, said it was "disappointed" by the decision and warned it could launch a legal challenge.
The company said: "We will study the Commission's decision in detail and will be considering our options, including the possibility of a legal challenge.
"We strongly believe that the merger would have brought major benefits to the UK, not only by unlocking £10bn of private sector investment in the UK's digital infrastructure but also by addressing the country's coverage issues, enhancing network capacity, speeds and price competition for consumers."
EU antitrust regulators argued that the deal would have meant higher prices and less choice for UK consumers.
EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager said: "Allowing Hutchison to take over O2 at the terms they proposed would have been bad for UK consumers and bad for the UK mobile sector."
O2, owned by Spain's Telefonica, is now likely to become a target for Liberty Global.
Liberty's chief executive, Mike Fries, said "it would be strange if we didn't evaluate that option".
A proposal to offload Telefonica's stake in a joint venture with Tesco and to offer network capacity to Tesco Mobile and Virgin Media in an effort to get the deal approved was rejected.