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Telefonica offers GBP 18 billion for O2

More consolidation in the carrier market as Spanish firm is poised for takeover

Spanish telecoms company Telefonica, which operates major mobile networks in the south of Europe and Latin America, looks likely to take over one of the UK's biggest carriers, O2, after tabling a GBP 18 billion bid for the firm.

The bid - which offers 200 pence per share in cash, a 22 per cent premium over Friday's valuation of O2 on the stock exchange - is being recommended by the board of O2 and will complete early next year if it is accepted by shareholders.

Telefonica has pledged that O2 will retain its existing branding and will continue to be based in the UK. The two businesses have remarkably little overlap in their operations, as Telefonica has no interests in the UK, Ireland or Germany, where O2 operates.

O2, which is the sixth largest carrier in Europe, recently hit the headlines thanks to the launch of the heavily promoted i-mode service in the UK, with the technology - pioneered by Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo - being promoted heavily as a high quality content solution for mobile devices.

Telefonica's bid looks set to be the winner after several months of interest from other carriers, including German firm Deutsche Telekom and Dutch company KPN.

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