Belfast Telegraph

Legal challenge mounted against decision to block Three-O2 deal

The owner of the Three mobile network is mounting a legal challenge against a decision by the European Commission to block its £10.3 billion bid to acquire O2.

Hutchison confirmed on Friday that it has lodged an appeal at the European General Court after EU antitrust regulators refused to rubber stamp the tie-up in May, arguing that the deal would have meant higher prices and less choice for UK consumers.

However, even if it is victorious, it is not thought that the deal to acquire O2, owned by Spain's Telefonica, would be revived. Hutchison could push for compensation or use a decision in its favour to help smooth over future deals on the continent.

The move to block the deal signalled a stricter approach by the Commission toward mergers in the region that are deemed to harm competition.

British communications regulator Ofcom also argued against the Three-O2 deal, dubbing the Commission's decision the "right outcome" for mobile customers.

It said: "Three and O2 are important and effective competitors in the UK, helping to deliver innovation, investment and competitive prices over many years."