T-Mobile's Tie-Up with Orange on OFT Radar; Watchdog's Competition Fears

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Byline: GRAEME EVANS

THE merger of Orange and TMobile is facing further scrutiny amid fears the tie-up will harm competition in the UK mobile phone market.

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has asked the European Commission for the opportunity to examine the UK aspects of the deal, which is set to create the UK's largest mobile phone operator.

The regulator said yesterday: "The OFT's initial view, following consultation, is that the joint venture threatens significantly to affect competition in mobile telecommunications in the UK."

France Telecom's Orange and Deutsche Telekom-owned TMobile - currently the UK's third and fourth largest operators - will have 28.4m customers between them and claim a 37% market share.

The deal was announced last year as mobile phone operators struggle in a highly competitive and saturated UK market.

If Brussels approves the referral, the OFT will have to decide whether to refer the merger to the Competition Commission for an in-depth investigation.

As well as resulting in a longer period of uncertainty, the two companies may have to offer significant concessions in order to secure regulatory approval. …