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Mobile phone operators eye T-Mobile UK

VODAFONE and Spain&rsquo;s Telefonica, the owner of O2, are understood to have tabled conditional offers of around &pound;3.5bn to buy T-Mobile UK.<br /><br />The sale of the Deutsche Telekom unit to either party would create the UK&rsquo;s largest mobile operator &ndash; once its 16.6m customers were added to theirs &ndash; and both offers are believed to include concessions aimed at appeasing industry regulators worried about competition.<br /><br />If successful, O2 would claim a 43 per cent share of UK mobile revenues, buoyed by its exclusive tie-up with the Apple iPhone.<br /><br />But it is believed that Deutsche Telekom chief executive Rene Obermann is reluctant to sell at &pound;3.5bn because it would result in a second writedown on the value of the division, and would prefer to see T-Mobile UK merge with France Telecom&rsquo;s Orange.<br /><br />A tie-up with Orange is viewed by some as the more likely option for T-Mobile UK, which recently appointed ex-Orange veteran Richard Moat as its chief executive. <br /><br />Moat has adamantly denied that he was brought in to oversee a quick sale and has said he is committed to a &ldquo;long-term restructuring&rdquo; of the business.