Price rise fear over £15billion mobile merger between Vodafone and Three
A proposed £15billion mega-merger of mobile giants Vodafone and Three has sparked fears a deal would lead to punishing price hikes.
Vodafone and Three’s owner, the Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison Group, yesterday confirmed the plan.
If approved, the deal would create the UK’s biggest mobile firm, with 27 million customers and more than 11,500 staff.
Margherita Della Valle, boss of Vodafone, said the tie-up is “great for customers, the country and competition”.
The two firms combined would top Virgin Media O2’s 24 million customers and EE’s 20 million – and they have pledged to invest £11billion in the UK over the next 10 years to create one of Europe’s biggest 5G networks.
Vodafone would own 51 percent and CK Hutchison the remainder, with a buyout option for Vodafone three years on from the deal, if the firm’s worth is at least £16.5billion.
The scale of the deal is likely to trigger an in-depth probe by the Competition and Markets Authority.
Ernest Doku, telecoms expert at Uswitch.com, said that with such mergers, “there’s always the risk of reduced competition and subsequent increased prices”.
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Rocio Concha, of consumer group Which?, said: “Reducing the number of providers from four to three risks reducing choices available while raising prices and lowering the quality of services available.”
Gail Cartmail, of the union Unite, said: “This deal will give a company with deep ties to the Chinese state an even more prominent place at the heart of the UK’s telecoms infrastructure.
“It will hike people’s bills and mean job losses… Unite is building a cross-party coalition to demand the [Government steps in to stop this].”
Vodafone last month announced 11,000 of its staff would lose their jobs over the next three years.
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