Hutchison Whampoa, the owner of the UK’s fourth-largest mobile network Three, is continuing talks with Spain’s Telefonica to buy its UK network O2.
Telefonica was in talks with BT to sell O2, valued at around £9bn, but the deal fell apart when BT opted for exclusive deal talks with Orange and Deutsche Telekom to buy EE.
“Things are moving,” said one person with knowledge of talks yesterday, but cautioned talks were at an early stage with no certainty an agreement would be reached.
O2 was acquired by Telefonica in early 2006 and is second in the British mobile market with around 22m subscribers.
The UK’s telecoms sector has seen a wave of deal speculation since BT confirmed it had entered exclusive £12.5bn takeover talks with EE, a move expected to strengthen the former state monopoly as the UK moves towards a so-called quad play market with operators offering bundles of mobile, home broadband, telephone and TV.
Telefonica and Hutchison declined to comment.