Three Group to explore opportunities for further growth

Three Group Europe will continue to explore growth opportunities through potential consolidation in markets where it currently operates, as the Hutchison Whampoa-owned mobile group seeks to "enhance network capabilities and maintain operational efficiencies."

In its results statement for 2014, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa noted that its European mobile group already benefited from "post-merger cost synergies in Austria and Ireland" last year, with total group revenue rising 6 per cent to HK$65 billion (€7.4 billion/$8.3 billion) and EBITDA increasing by 23 per cent to HK$15.6 billion.

Three Group Europe completed the acquisition of O2 Ireland last year following its previous purchase of Orange Austria, creating new, larger mobile operators in the two markets under the "3" brand. Now, it is also seeking to merge Three UK with O2 UK: in January the group agreed to enter into exclusive negotiations with Telefónica for the potential acquisition of O2 UK, for an indicative price of £9.2 billion (€12.6 billion/$14.2 billion) in cash.

Three Group Europe is also active in Sweden, Italy and Denmark. It was recently reported to have ramped up talks with VimpelCom on a merger of their respective Italian units, Wind and Three Italy. Hutchison Whampoa noted that all operations in Three Group Europe increased their contributions to the group's earnings during the year with the exception of Italy, which faced keen competition during the year.

The mergers completed to date have also clearly benefited the group's subscriber count, with the total active customer base rising by 13 per cent last year to more than 25 million customers in Europe.

In the UK, Three added 478,000 new active customers to reach more than 8.4 million by the end of the year, and saw EBITDA increase by 31 per cent to £547 million. In Italy, EBIDTA declined by 11 per cent to €248 million ($278.5 million).

For more:
- see Hutchison Whampoa's 2014 results statement

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