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3 denies fresh sale rumours

Reports of managerial sacking revives sale speculation, prompting new denials from Hutchison

Mobile operator 3 has denied it is putting its UK operations up for sale, while downplaying the revelation that it is cutting jobs at its Berkshire headquarters.

A spokesperson for the operator told ZDNet UK that reports in the Sunday papers, stating that "about 130 management jobs will go" at the Maidenhead office, were incorrect.

Although a breakdown of the number of managerial positions being cut was not available, the spokesperson said that the 130 jobs would go "at every level across a number of departments", adding that the company's overall headcount would in fact increase as it recruits more staff for its retail stores.

The spokesperson also pointed out that Hutchison Whampoa, 3's parent company, "categorically denies speculation regarding the sale" of any of its mobile operator companies. Hutchison has had to make several such statements recently, following speculation over the futures of 3 UK and 3 Italia.

Less than two weeks ago, Hutchison group managing director Canning Fok used the X-Series product launch to scoff at rumours that 3 UK might be sold, but there have nonetheless been some recent indications that a sale could be possible. The X-Series is a new range of phones that will come with flat-rate mobile broadband access — a move that was welcomed by analysts, but which has the potential to cut into 3's voice and SMS revenues.

Vodafone chief Arun Sarin is thought to be interested in acquiring 3, and Fok has hinted that he might be willing to sell 3 UK if "someone puts a big fat cheque in front of [him]".