Mobile network operator O2 is reportedly in talks with one of Asia’s richest men who may buy it for £9 billion. O2 is Britain’s second largest mobile operator. This deal if true would unite O2 and Three according to The Sunday Times.
Telefonica, which owns O2, is in talks with Three’s owner, the corporate group Hutchison Whampoa. The man in control though is the Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing and its rumoured he is willing to lay down serious money to make this deal go ahead.
This will follow another phone operator buyout if BT’s £12.5 billion acquisition of EE goes through as planned. There is a mad dash at the moment for operators to offer everything in one package – phone, broadband and TV – companies are buying each other out to try and offer the best package to customers they can. BT’s proposed buyout of EE, for example, followed the launch of its EE TV that the company hopes will replace competitors like YouView, Sky and Virgin, although BT already had its own BT Vision it hasn’t been widely adopted.
O2 is currently in debt and looking for a way to exit the UK, where according to Bloomberg it has been haemorrhaging money. It reports that O2 may also consider selling off to the public.
Li Ka-shing has already bought Telefonica’s Irish business for £650 million to combine it with Three Ireland.
As usual all the businesses involved in the deal have declined to comment at this stage, we won’t know more until after the deal is done.