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Mobile

Vodafone, Hutchison join forces for Optus bid

U.K. giant Vodafone strikes a deal with Hutchison Telecommunications in a bold move to bypass antitrust laws and acquire Australia's second-largest mobile carrier.

UK giant Vodafone has struck a deal with Hutchison Telecommunications in a bold move to bypass antitrust laws and acquire Australia's second-largest mobile carrier.

In its attempts to cajole the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) to give the takeover its nod of approval, Vodafone has agreed to sign one million customers from its combined mobile customer base with Cable & Wireless Optus to Hutchison if the acquisition goes ahead.

Currently ranked third in the mobile market, with a 19 percent stake, Vodafone would control 52 percent of the market--about 5.5 million customers--if its acquisition of C&W Optus goes ahead.

By off-loading one million customers to Hutchison, the combined Vodafone/C&W Optus share would be about 44 percent of the market, just below Telstra's 46 percent stake and perhaps a way around regulatory hurdles.

"A detailed submission regarding the proposed arrangements with Hutchison is being made to the ACCC," a Vodafone statement said.

Furthermore, "discussions between Vodafone Pacific and C&W Optus remain at an early stage and there can be no assurance that any agreement will be reached," the company added.

If the acquisition is approved by the ACCC, Vodafone will merge its mobile operations with those of C&W Optus while selling the number too Telco's other businesses.

Singapore Telecommunications and Telecom Corporation of New Zealand are understood to have placed bids for C&W Optus's assets this week.

ZDNet Australia's Rachel Lebihan reported from Sydney.