O2 CEO Ronan Dunne has told Mobile he doesn’t expect there to be a ‘significant difference’ in the time frame of approval between the O2/Three and BT/EE mergers.
However, Dunne also acknowledged that because the European Commission (EC) decision to have an in-depth investigation of the takeover of O2 by Three’s owners Hutchison Whampoa, there was a greater potential for delays.
The O2 boss, who has previously said that he would not lead an O2/Three combined business, said: ‘The preliminary approval will become final approval, subject to any objections that may arise, around the January/February time frame. The earliest date for us to be completed is in March/April time frame, so there is not a significant difference.
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‘We always anticipated a Phase 2 Review [A European Commission in-depth investigation] as did the market, and what I do acknowledge is that that at a Phase 2 there are very often reasons to ‘stop the clock’ as it’s described. So it’s not absolutely certain that we’ll be finished in that March/April timeframe. If I was guessing I’d say late spring to summer, but I don’t think that we have any concerns over the timeline per say. It’s quite clear that we’re effectively competing in the market and winning.’
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UK watchdog’s look
Dunne also explained that the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) needed to submit a second request to examine the deal following the EC’s decision to look at the merger in greater detail.
The O2 chief said the CMA’s desire to investigate the deal came as little surprise to the Telefonica owned brand: ‘The CMA made it clear from the very beginning, because there were two deals going through their jurisdiction at the same time it would be handy for them to look at both. So it was no surprise that they made that the request.
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‘The fact that the Commission chose to open up a Phase 2 investigation effectively meant the CMA’s initial request expired. My understanding is that technically the CMA is expected to make a second application, and I have no idea if they intend to do so. But the general view of the market is that things will move in Brussels through the phase 2 investigation.’
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