Hutchison Whampoa‘s £10bn purchase of UK mobile group O2 from Spain’s Telefónica will put 3 into the leadership position in the UK.
Asia’s richest man is poised to take control of the UK’s biggest mobile phone network. Li Ka-shing has an estimated fortune of $34.1bn (£25.5bn) from his sprawling empire of ports, utilities and property, according to Forbes. His conglomerate, Hutchison Whampoa, is the parent company of Three, which confirmed it to pay £10.25bn, mostly in cash, for larger rival 02. The deal would create the UK’s largest mobile phone firm with 31.5 million customers, cutting the number of network owners in the UK from four to three.
It would also make Li one of the biggest foreign investors in the UK. The octogenarian Hong Kong tycoon’s UK portfolio includes the health and beauty chain Superdrug and Northumbrian Water. Last week, he paid more than £1bn for the Eversholt Rail Group, which owns nearly a third of Britain’s trains.
Known as “Superman” in Hong Kong, Li built his fortune from exporting plastic flowers in the 1950s and has amassed companies in more than 50 countries. Most recently, he has been snapping up mobile networks around Europe, buying Orange in Austria and O2 in Ireland.
As recently as 2010, the UK had five network owners and a fiercely competitive market. But that became four when Orange and T-Mobile merged to form EE. Although the UK telecoms regulator, Ofcom, has long said it wants to retain four competing mobile firms in the UK. Last year, the European commission gave the green light to Telefónica’s €8.6bn (£6.4bn) takeover of German operator E-plus. This was seen as a watershed moment because it was the first time the mobile market went from four to three competitors in a large EU country.
Source: The Guardian