BT to decide on EE or O2, Vodafone denies Liberty Global interest

Stéphane Richard

Stéphane Richard

BT is expected to make a choice between acquiring EE and O2 by Christmas, according to Orange CEO Stéphane Richard, whose company co-owns EE with Deutsche Telekom. 

Richard told journalists at the Sommet de l’Economie event in Paris that BT, which is in talks with both Orange and Deutsche Telekom, owners of EE, and Telefónica, owner of O2, had its own calendar but that more would be know in a few days.

The news came as Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colão denied that he was interested in acquiring Liberty Global, according to the Telegraph newspaper. Reports of Vodafone’s interest in Liberty had linked a potential acquisition to BT’s possible return to mobile in the UK.

The paper reported that Colão played down reports that he is mulling the possible acquisition of the European cable asset at a shareholders meeting this week, but that he could be interested in acquiring Liberty’s German assets. Vodafone already owns Germany’s largest cable operator Kabel Deutschland and the acquisition of second-ranked Unitymedia KabelBW would make strategic sense. However, it would likely attract the scrutiny of the country’s regulator, which has been highly resistant to wider cable consolidation in the past.

Colão also reportedly said at the meeting that a BT acquisition of EE could actually be good news for Vodafone, as it would reduce the risk of a mobile price war in the UK.

Vodafone shares dropped sharply at the start of this week on the reports that it could be interested in acquiring Liberty Global amidst concerns about the debts the combined group would have to service.