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Three owner seeks to reduce the UK's 'big 4' mobile carrier to 3 with reported £9bn 02 acquisition

Li Ka-shing, owner of Hutchison Whampoa

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing, owner of Hutchison Whampoa - and therefore UK mobile carrier Three - is reportedly eyeing up a potential £9bn bid for O2.

Telefonica, which owns O2 is in “early stage talks” with Hutchison Whampoa over the mobile carrier's potential sale to the Hong Kong-based magnate, according to a report from the Sunday Times.

The pairing of two of the UK’s leading firms would have to be approved by Ofcom but would see the firms in a better position to stand their ground if BT finalises its potential £12.5bn purchase of EE from Deutsche Telekom and Orange.

This comes as La Ka-shing’s Hutchison Whampoa strengthens its operations throughout Europe buying Telefonica’s Ireland business and merging with VimpelCom’s Italian sector.

Last November, BT discussed purchasing EE in parallel with talks to acquiring O2, before choosing to throw its chips in with the former.

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