Two bigwigs in the UK mobile phone industry had just five days to deliver “legally binding proposals” that the proposed sale of thousands of phone antennas will not hurt competition and consumers.
The tight deadline came as the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) expressed “concerns” over Spain’s Cellnex acquisition plan of thousands of mobile towers currently owned by CK Hutchison Holdings, the parent company of UK network Three in Hong Kong. [PDF].
The CMA’s intervention follows last year’s announcement that Cellnex planned to shell out € 10 billion as part of a Europe-wide takeover of wireless telecommunications infrastructure currently owned by CK Hutchison Holdings.
At the time, it was announced that the acquisition would see some 24,600 towers added to Cellnex’s 60,000 masts portfolio across Europe, including some 6,000 mobile phone masts across Britain.
After completing phase 1 of its investigation launched in May, the CMA found that the agreement “raises competition concerns” with respect to the independent provision of “passive infrastructure assets”.
The CMA pointed out that Cellnex is already the “largest independent supplier of mobile towers in the UK” following its £ 2bn acquisition of Arqiva’s telecoms division in 2020, which added around 8,300 sites to the Cellnex portfolio.
AMC is concerned that its purchase of assets owned by Three – along with its already sizable fleet of towers and masts – could further strengthen its market position.
Therefore, Cellnex and CK Hutchison have five business days to present legally binding proposals to the AMC to ensure that the deal will not harm competition in the industry.
No one from Cellnex or Three was available for comment at the time of writing.
In a statement, Mike Walker, chief economic adviser to the CMA, said: “It is important that the services provided to mobile networks remain competitive so that the millions of businesses and consumers across the UK who use mobile networks. mobile phones can benefit from lower prices. Cellnex is already the largest independent supplier of mobile towers in the UK. We fear that this agreement will help to lock this position and prevent the emergence of new direct competition.
Cellnex and CK Hutchison have until July 20 to respond. ®