EU gives Three the green light to acquire O2 Ireland

28 May 2014

Robert Finnegan, CEO of Three Ireland

Hutchison Whampoa-owned Three is now effectively the second largest mobile operator on the island of Ireland after the European Commission approved its acquisition of O2 Ireland from Telefónica for €850m.

The European Commission originally objected to the acquisition in February, citing a number of regulatory and commercial concerns.

The two companies had combined revenues of €736m in 2013, which compares to Three’s revenue of €180m in 2013 on a standalone basis.

“With the combined strengths of the two businesses, Three will have the scale and financial strength necessary to compete more aggressively in the market,” Three Ireland CEO Robert Finnegan explained.

“Our ability to invest coupled with the combined subscriber base of both businesses will create new competitive dynamics in the Irish telecoms market,” he added.

“It leaves Three optimally positioned to become the No 1 player by providing the best value and service to our customers.”

O2 deal brings Hutchison Whampoa investment in Irish economy to €2bn

Hutchison Whampoa has so far invested more than €1.1bn in the Three Irish business.

Added to the purchase of O2 Ireland and the planned investment of €300m to build a 4G network over the next three years, this will bring Hutchison Whampoa’s total investment in Ireland to around €2bn.

As part of the EU approval process, Three has committed to provide network capacity and mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) services to two MVNOs in order to facilitate new MVNO entry into Ireland with the option to acquire spectrum that may be taken up by one or the other to become a network operator.

Three has also committed to offer to Eircom Meteor to continue its network sharing with O2 on “improved terms” with the merged network.

Finnegan said the €2bn investment in Ireland by Hutchison Whampoa demonstrates the Hong Kong-headquartered conglomerate’s faith in the future of the Irish economy.

“Increasing access to high-quality high-speed networks for Irish businesses and consumers is an essential part of Ireland’s national economic recovery,” Finnegan said.

“This deal will enable Three to invest significantly in building a state-of-the-art 4G network, delivering very real benefits to customers in urban and rural areas throughout the country.

“Our focus will now turn to the legal requirements to complete the acquisition, which we expect to do shortly. Until then, it is business as usual for Three and O2 customers.”

Main image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years