Report: 3 Austria close to acquiring Orange Austria

Hutchison Whampoa's 3 Austria is in final negotiations with France Telecom (FT) to acquire Orange Austria, according to a a report carried by Austrian news portal News.at.

The takeover, which is being finalized while the investment bank Merrill Lynch conducts due diligence, is expected to see 3 Austria pay between €750 million and €1.1 billion for its larger rival. The report, which did not cite its sources, said the deal could close in the next two months, but will then be referred to the European Union and Austrian regulators in a process that could take six months to gain approval.

However, the takeover could cause questions for the Austrian telecoms regulator which is planning to auction LTE spectrum around September 2012. If 3 Austria is successful in purchasing the FT Orange subsidiary, which will reduce the number of likely LTE bidders from four to three, then the government may consider delaying the process in an effort to attract interest from other parties.

Orange Austria, which lately has been a focus for takeover rumours with A1 Telekom Austria issued a denial earlier this month stating it wasn't preparing a bid, while Germany's T-Mobile is another operator said to be interested. Orange Austria is currently 65 per cent owned by the private equity firm Mid Europa Partners and 35 per cent by FT Orange.

For more:
- see this News.at article (translated via Google Translate)
- see this Telecom Paper article (sub. req.)
- see this Telegeography article

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Rumour Mill: Orascom's Sawiris, Austria's Pecik stalk Telekom Austria
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