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HK giant shuns debt-laden dino

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Three network owner Hutchison Whampoa has ruled out making a bid for O2 in the UK.

Hutchison agreed to take O2 Ireland off Telefonica's hands last year. The €850m deal is currently pending a final session of horse-trading before approval at the EU level.

In an interview with the Telegraph, Three UK's CEO Dave Dyson said "We don’t need to consolidate with anybody."

Telefonica is one of the world's indebted companies - with €52bn in long-term debt. By contrast, Hutchison Whampoa has lucrative businesses in ports, property and energy, and made a profit of almost $4bn on turnover of almost $53bn last year.

Eleven years on after its launch in the UK, Three remains in last place in the UK market (excluding virtual operators, MVNOs) but it is profitable and well-run. Net additions grew over 600,000 last year and margins are growing as a big part of the market abandons pay-as-you-go for monthly contracts.

BT, the former owner of O2, already operates as an MVNO for business, and is expected to enter the UK consumer market this year, making use of its Wi-Fi network and sports deals. It's currently switching from Vodafone to EE as its provider, a move expected to take a couple of years.

Hutch got a significant boost today in an EU ruling that decrees it eligible for tax relief on its losses. ®

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