BT & EE on offensive over deal

Gavin Patterson, BT’s chief executive, said that its proposed £12.5 billion acquisition of EE would create a combined fixed-line, mobile and digital infrastructure group that would “sit at the heart of a successful UK economy”, reports The Times.

Then he turned on his rivals, saying: “Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone are doing things to push their own causes, but they are doing it through innuendo. There is no evidence that a combined BT and EE will lessen competition.”

He said that consumers would have “greater choice and value” through “bundled services”, while other companies could continue to have “equal access” to Openreach, the engineering division of BT, and wholesale access to the EE mobile network.

His comments were echoed by Olaf Swantee, the chief executive of EE, who said that the enlarged group would be “both willing and able to invest in ultra-fast broadband and 5G . . . These competitors only want to put up roadblocks, while we want to build motorways for the UK.”

The executives were speaking at an event in London yesterday to mark the publication of a BT-commissioned report, which claimed that the combination of the two companies would “create a UK digital champion”. It is part of the companies’ efforts to secure regulatory approval for the deal.

Ofcom has confirmed that it plans to carry out a full “Phase 2” investigation into the merger. It is also reviewing the wider telecoms industry and said last month that BT may have to hand over access to fibre-optic cables to its rivals.

A spokeswoman for TalkTalk said it was “unsurprising” that BT and EE would claim their merger would deliver benefits, but said that “evidence from other markets did not support this”.

Robert Kenny, of Communications Chambers, the consultancy that carried out the report, said that a merged BT and EE could generate £3 billion of overhead and network savings.