BT surprised many when it confirmed it's currently in talks to buy back mobile operator O2, nearly 10 years after it sold the company to Telefonića. However, the telecoms giant said at the time that it wasn't interested in just one carrier. Rumours suggested that EE is the other subject of BT's affections, and sure enough those predictions were spot on. In a move to clear things up, Orange and Deutsche Telekom (50/50 owners of the UK's biggest mobile operator), today confirmed that they are engaged in "highly preliminary exploratory discussions with BT" over a possible sale. Its owners say they are keen to maximise value for shareholders while strengthening EE's market position, but say it's currently "too early to state whether any transaction may occur."Should an agreement be reached, gaining approval could be pretty difficult. BT is already the UK's largest provider of fixed-line services, and with EE under its wing, it would be the runaway leader in the mobile market (in both customers and spectrum). Communications watchdog Ofcom would presumably have something to say if BT and EE were to join forces, as would regulators at European Commission. While it looks certain that BT will soon buy its way back into the mobile industry, there's no saying which route it will take. Will it choose O2 and slowly build out its network or buy market leader EE and attempt to run the regulatory gauntlet? We could find out very soon.
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