T-Mobile/Orange UK Merger Draws Competition Scrutiny

That’s what you get for saying your merger will give you 37 percent of all UK mobile subscribers. The UK government’s Office of Fair Trading says it’s asking Europe’s permission for it – and not the European Commission – to review the proposed 50/50 merger of Orange and T-Mobile’s UK divisions, in order to decide whether to refer it for an even fuller inquiry…

The OFT yesterday made a request to the European Commission (EC) to refer the UK aspects of the proposed joint venture between Orange UK and T-Mobile UK to the OFT.

The OFT’s initial view, following consultation, is that the joint venture threatens significantly to affect competition in mobile telecommunications in the UK.

If the request is granted, the OFT intends to examine the proposed joint venture with a view to deciding whether it should be referred to the Competition Commission for an in-depth investigation.

It’s hard to see how the OFT, if it gets to review the proposal, won’t conclude that the deal is a “relevant merger situation” that will result in a ” substantial lessening of competition” under competition law. Orange and T-Mobile said they would retain separate branding for 18 months but would “review branding alternatives