UK consumer watchdog wants say in Orange-T-Mobile deal

UK consumer watchdog wants say in Orange-T-Mobile deal. (AP)

Britain's consumer watchdog has asked for a say in the planned merger of the UK arms of France Telecom's Orange and Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile, raising prospects of at least a delay to any deal.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) said yesterday it had asked the European Commission to let it examine the deal because the proposal "threatens significantly to affect competition in mobile telecommunications in the UK".

T-Mobile and Orange agreed in November to form a 50-50 venture that would grab top spot with a market share of about 37 per cent while reducing the number of mobile phone operators in the country to four from five.

Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom said yesterday the companies were in contact with all offices involved but declined to comment on possible delays or conditions.

"We are confident that any concerns about the venture can be dispelled and fundamentally believe that the deal is beneficial to competition," a Deutsche Telekom spokesman said.

T-Mobile UK Managing Director Richard Moat said last month he was hoping the proposed joint venture would be examined by regulators in Brussels, as scrutiny in the UK could take much longer. "If it were dealt with in Brussels on a 'stage one' (initial investigation) process then you could be looking at approval by the end of February.

"If it came back to the UK and it was dealt with by a (more detailed) 'stage two' process you could be looking at 2011 and I don't think that's in anyone's interest," he told a conference in London.

A person familiar with the situation said that even if the UK authorities reviewed it, the venture would get an approval or decision by September.

 

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