Three owner eyes a bid for O2

Three owner eyes a bid for O2
Soon to be O3?

Hong Kong-based tycoon Li Ka-shing - owner of the Three network - is planning a £9 billion bid for O2, according to reports. Talks are said to be at an early stage between Telefonica, which owns O2, and Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa, which runs the Three network.

It seems clear that Telefonica is looking to get O2 off its hands as quickly as possible - back in November there was speculation that BT and Three were both in negotiations to take over the network. O2 was originally spun off by BT in 2001.

That rumoured £9 billion would get Li Ka-shing and Hutchison Whampoa the second biggest network in the UK, currently boasting close to 24 million subscribers. EE has over 26 million in total.

Across the spectrum

Besides customer numbers, there's also a battle for a larger slice of the UK's mobile phone spectrum going on. This is another area where EE, owned by Orange and Deutsche Telekom, trumps O2.

If O2 were to combine its spectrum frequencies with Three then it would be able to get a lot closer to the amount of bandwidth owned by EE. It would also overtake its rival in terms of customer numbers (Three has around 10 million subscribers at the last count).

This isn't the first time we've heard talk of Three eying up O2 either, with a similar report surfacing back in December 2013.

We contacted Telefonica (O2's parent company) about these rumours and were given a firm "no comment" from a spokesperson. We've also asked Three for a comment and if we get a response we'll report it here. With BT now in preliminary talks to take over EE, 2015 is set to see a big shake-up in network ownership.

David Nield
Freelance Contributor

Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you'll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.