Vodafone, Hutchison close to merging UK ops: FT

Vodafone is close to merging its UK operations with rival Three UK, owned by Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison, in a deal worth £15 billion ($18.8 billion), the Financial Times reported Thursday.

Talks between the two groups, which have been going on for nearly a year, are close to conclusion according to three people close to the matter, the business daily said.

Vodafone had confirmed the discussions in October, saying a combination would allow it to accelerate the rollout of 5G in the UK, which has been hampered by Britain’s ban on the Chinese giant Huawei from involvement in the technology.

At the time, Vodafone said it would have a majority stake of 51 percent stake and CK Hutchison the remainder in a non-cash deal.

A merger would also expand broadband connectivity to rural communities and small businesses, it said. — Agence France-Presse