VIENNA (Reuters) - Telekom Austria (TELA.VI) is keen to complete its purchase of Orange Austria’s FTE.PA budget mobile brand Yesss, it said, dismissing speculation it could use possible regulatory delays to walk away from the deal.
The 390 million euro ($511 million) Yesss purchase is key for Hutchison Whampoa’s 0013.HK parallel 1.3 billion euro takeover of Orange Austria FTE.PA to go ahead.
“The impression has been spreading in the past weeks that we don’t want Yesss. We will do everything to get the deal done,” a Telekom Austria spokesman said on Saturday.
Hutchison Whampoa wants Orange Austria to gain critical mass in the country, where it is the smallest mobile operator.
The outcome of the deal is being closely watched in other European countries where hard-pressed telecoms companies are also hoping to be allowed to consolidate.
That takeover is conditional on Telekom Austria buying Yesss, a deal approved by Austria’s cartel court but which still could be challenged by the country’s BWB anti-trust authority.
The BWB has said it might appeal against the court decision because it is concerned the Yesss acquisition could hurt consumers. Its decision is due next week.
A BWB appeal would delay regulatory approval beyond the end of January, a deadline after which Telekom Austria could walk away from the Yesss deal.
Telekom Austria agreed almost a year ago to buy Yesss, which would raise its market share in Austria by about 2 percentage points to 47 percent.
But since then, the company has warned on profits and slashed its dividend to conserve cash. And Hutchison has promised to help open up the market to new entrants to gain approval for the merger, which would limit benefits from consolidation.
Investors are not keen on Telekom Austria’s purchase of Yesss partly because the company, like other European telecoms groups, is cutting its dividend.
($1 = 0.7628 euros)
Reporting by Georgina Prodhan, Writing by Michael Shields; Editing by Hugh Lawson