Private equity firms close in on O2 as Telefonica prepares it for listing

Billy Bambrough
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O2 is the UK's second largest mobile network (Source: Getty)

Two of Europe’s biggest private equity firms are plotting to team up on a bid for Telefonica’s UK mobile network O2.

Apax Partners and CVC Capital are understood to have discussed forming a consortium to bid for the UK’s second largest mobile operator.

The two buyout firms are working against the clock to put a bid together as Telefonica is planning to float the company to clear some of its debt after a sale to Hong Kong investment firm Hutchison Whampoa was knocked back by the European competition watchdog.

Read more: Was the European Commission right to block the Three-O2 merger?

The European Commission last month quashed the merger between Three owner Hutchinson and O2 due to concerns about the impact on pricing and infrastructure.

If the two had merged it would have brought the number of mobile operators in the UK down to three from four. Hutchison had agreed to buy O2 for £10bn.

It has previously been reported that rival buyout firms KKR and Blackstone are also interested in buying O2.

Read more: The EU's block of the O2-Three merger proves why we need to vote remain

Apax and KKR had previously worked together on a bid for O2 rival EE before it was snapped up by BT in January.