Hutchison refutes exit claims in UK

21 May 2012 | Kavit Majithia


Hutchison Whampoa has said it remains committed to its investments in the UK, despite rumours escalating today that it is set to exit the UK mobile market through Three.

In a statement released this morning, Hutchison, which is owned by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing, told Asian investors in the UK it was happy with its present investments. The company went on to say that any suggestion it may cease investment in the UK or pull out of the nation’s telecoms market is “totally untrue and groundless”. This statement comes one month after it revised a $2 billion bid for troubled Irish operator Eircom.

National media reports in the UK have indicated this morning that Three is attempting to influence Ofcom by threatening an exit. Canning Fok, managing director at Hutchison Whampoa told British Prime Minister David Cameron last month a withdrawal is imminent, unless Three is guaranteed airwaves in the upcoming 4G spectrum auction. “If we don’t receive a guarantee, there’s a real incentive for the larger operators to bid you out of the market,” said a spokesperson.

Three was introduced in the UK market in 2003 in a bid to drive competition in the mobile industry. The company now operates less than a 10% share in the market, and claims it will not be able to compete in a bidding war against the larger players.