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Three could return O2 to stock market after Telefónica acquisition

Three may try to float O2 on the stock market if parent firm CK Hutchison Holdings goes ahead with plans to buy the mobile network operator from Telefónica

Three parent CK Hutchison Holdings (CKHH) is understood to be exploring the idea of floating the combined £15bn Three-O2 mobile network, should its takeover of Telefónica’s O2 in the UK be approved.

In an interview with the Financial Times, CKHH co-managing director Canning Fock said the multi-billion pound Hong Kong-based conglomerate had discussed the possibility of listing the combined business with a number of investors.

O2 was previously a publicly traded company following its spin-off from BT in 2002. However it was delisted in 2007 following its takeover by Telefónica.

In 2012 rumours circulated that Telefónica was planning to list O2 as a debt-reduction measure, following a successful flotation of O2 Deutschland in Germany, which raised it over £1.5bn. However Telefónica put paid to the reports, saying it had no plans and no need to do so.

Although Fock did not share a timescale for listing, he did share details of how CKHH envisions the future for the two networks, saying that the business will be led by Three chief executive Dave Dyson, with O2 boss Ronan Dunne set to step down.

He added that no decision had yet been taken on the name of the combined network, and would operate the two networks in parallel for a time, while a number of network-sharing agreements – O2 with Vodafone and Three with EE – are unpicked and renegotiated, and network capacity problems are smoothed out.

Last week the Competition and Markets Authority opened a consultation on whether it should ask the European Commission (EC) to refer the £9.5bn acquisition to the UK authorities; and whether or not allowing the two networks to come together would be damaging to competition.

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