Li Ka-shing set to buy UK's O2 for $15b

Updated: 2015-01-23 13:59


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Li Ka-shing set to buy UK's O2 for $15b

The O2 logo is seen as England's George Ford kicks a penalty during their international rugby test match against Samoa at Twickenham in London, Nov 22, 2014. [Photo/Agencies]

Hutchison Whampoa Ltd, the conglomerate controlled by Hong Kong’s billionaire Li Ka-shing, is in exclusive negotiations to buy UK’s second-largest mobile operator, O2, for about 10 billion pounds ($15 billion), announced the company in a filing to Hong Kong Exchanges on Friday.

The deal is part of a dazzling shopping spree by Li Ka-shing, one of Asia's wealthiest men, as his empire just bought Britain's train company Eversholt Rail for an enterprise value of 2.5 billion pounds, announced its counterpart on Tuesday.

According to Financial Times, O2's shareholder Telefonica wants the cash to help reduce its high net debt levels and fund deal-making in more core countries such as Brazil, while Hutchison Whampoa has recently freed additional money to strike deals in Europe following a corporate reorganization.

The 86-year-old billionaire announced earlier on Jan 9 that he would split his conglomerate into two listed companies, one focusing on property and the other on telecoms, retail and energy.

According to Bloomberg, the UK is primed for more deals after wireless-market leader EE began exclusive talks last month to be acquired by BT Group Plc, leaving smaller carriers looking for ways to compete. Hutchison shares were up 0.7 percent to HK$99 in pre- market trading on Friday before the suspension.

The company was also studying other options in Europe including merging its Italian mobile unit with a local competitor, said Bloomberg.

Related Story: Li Ka-shing buys UK train company Eversholt by Agencies

Hong Kong's Cheung Kong Infrastructure Holdings Ltd, backed by Li Ka-shing, Asia's richest man, has bought Britain's Eversholt Rail for an enterprise value of 2.5 billion pounds ($3.8 billion), the latest in a string of Asian buyers targeting European assets.

UK private equity fund 3i Infrastructure Plc said on Tuesday that it and Eversholt's other investors had sold their entire holding to the Hong Kong billionaire's CKI group.

Eversholt owns around 28 percent of the UK's passenger trains, with 19 fleets. It is one of the UK's three leading rail rolling stock companies.

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