Three and Vodafone in new merger talks, claims report

(Pocket-lint) – UK mobile operators Three and Vodafone are reportedly in renewed talks over a possible joint venture.

It is claimed that Vodafone is looking to combine its UK operations with CK Hutchinson’s Three UK, to create a larger network to compete with the likes of EE and Virgin Media O2.

Three had previously failed in its attempt to acquire O2, with the European Commission blocked the move. However, a combine Vodafone and Three would enable the new venture to accelerate network rollout, including 5G.

Three itself announced recently that it is ramping up network expansion by switching off its 3G services and thereby freeing resources. However, by combing efforts with Vodafone, this could more rapidly benefit customers of each.

The Financial Times reports that the talks have resumed after similar discussions took place last year. It cites “people with direct knowledge of the matter” as its sources.

It is highly unlikely that Vodafone will be acquiring Three outright, as some have suggested in the past, as it is not thought to have the funds for such a move. Indeed, the Hong Kong owner of Three UK, CK Hutchinson, might use this opportunity to make to make a buyout offer in the reverse direction.

Neither Vodafone nor Three have commented to date.

Writing by Rik Henderson.

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