Three Planning £9bn Acquisition Bid for O2

Three 3 LogoThree UK owner Hutchison Whampoa and its chairman Li Ka-shing, one of the richest men in Asia, are reportedly in talks to acquire O2, the UKs second-largest mobile phone operator, for as much as £9bn.

According to a report from The Sunday Times, citing sources within the City of London, the two companies are in early state discussions but Hutchison has already brought in investment bank UBS AG to explore the potential of a takeover.

The news comes just over a month after BT announced plans to buy the EE network for around £12.5bn, after a long period of consideration that also saw it look into acquiring O2 from current owners Telefonica.

If Three were to acquire O2, the combined subscriber base would make it the largest mobile carrier in the UK, and reduce the UK mobile market from four major operators to three.

Three already owns O2s operations in Ireland, which it acquired for €780m (£596m) in June 2013.