Hutchison gets European go-ahead to buy Orange in Austria

Hutchison has won approval from the European Commission to take over rival operator Orange, as long as it helps new entrants get a start in the country's mobile market.
Written by Jo Best, Contributor

The European Commission has approved mobile operator Hutchison's bid to take over rival network Orange in Austria.

Hutchison, owner of Three, is to buy Orange Austria.

Hutchison, which runs the Three mobile brand, announced its plan to take over Orange earlier this year. However, the move – which will reduce the number of mobile operators in Austria to three – was held up after the Commission raised concerns that the merger would hamper competition in the country and lead to higher mobile prices for consumers.

Hutchison submitted a list of measures to alleviate the Commission's concerns, and has now won its conditional approval for the bid.

Among the measures that Hutchison will now have to undertake to purchase Orange are divesting a chunk of spectrum to a new mobile entrant; wholesaling up to 30 percent of its capacity to up to 16 mobile virtual network operators (MVNOs); and not taking over Orange until it's signed one wholesale deal with an MVNO.

"European consumers increasingly use their mobile phones to upload and transfer data and new mobile data services are a major contribution to growth. The risks posed by more concentration in national mobile telephony markets cannot be ignored. The commitments proposed by H3G ensure that competition is preserved so that Austrian consumers continue to enjoy the benefits of innovation and fair prices," EC competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia said in a statement.

Once the merger is complete, Hutchison will have 24-percent market share in the country, behind T-Mobile with 30 percent and Telekom Austria with 46 percent, according to Reuters.

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