of Fair Trading has set a deadline of 21 January for all
comments on the proposed Orange/T-Mobile merger.
trade watchdog is currently studying the details of the proposed merger with a
view to deciding whether it should be investigated by the UK authorities
as well as the EU Commission.
In a Stock
Exchange announcement yesterday, the OFT said that, ‘given the short amount of
time the OFT has to make any request to the European Commission,’ submissions
had to be in by 21 January.
comes after Orange
and T-Mobile formally sought the EU Commission’s approval for the deal earlier
is facing concerted opposition from rival UK operators, Consumer Focus,
Which? and other watchdog groups.
If the OFT requests
that the merger be investigated by the UK authorities - and the EU
Commission grants its request - the merger could face significant delays. The
OFT would then carry out further investigations before deciding whether to
refer the merger to the Competition Commission under the Enterprise Act 2002.
Nelson, merger analyst at MLex Market Intelligence, said that the OFT has only
made three requests for mergers to be referred to the UK authorities
since the merger regulations were changed in 2004.
He added: ‘Having
said that, the OFT may feel it wants to look at the deal in a different way to
the way the EU Commission will view it. It could be that the OFT has a
different view on the UK
market than the EU Commission. It is significant that the Government has said
in a Government paper that that the UK operator market currently has the right
number of participants.’