A deal between Hutchison Whampoa and Telefónica on the acquisition of O2 Ireland could be on the cards very soon, according to a report from Bloomberg.
Citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg said talks are at an advanced stage and an agreement could be reached even before July 5, when rival companies are also expected to place their bids.
O2 Ireland has long been seen as an asset that Telefónica is seeking to divest in an effort to reduce its debt to €47 billion by the end of the year from €51.2 billion now. The Spanish company could raise more than €700 million from the sale, reports have said.
Neither Hutchison nor Telefónica have confirmed the reports, according to Bloomberg. Hutchison already operates an Irish mobile unit under 3 Ireland; a merger with O2 Ireland would reduce the number of mobile network operators from four to three, including Vodafone Ireland and Eircom's eMobile.
Other potential bidders for the Irish O2 unit have been cited as Eircom and UPC Ireland, which is owned by Liberty Global.
Hutchison is also hoping to be able to merge its 3 Italy unit with Telecom Italia's mobile business, but discussions there appear to have stalled for now.
- see this Bloomberg article
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