Nine years later and BT wants to buy back O2

Some of you might have memories of a little thing called BT Cellnet that existed back in the day, a mobile network that seems to have fizzled out of existence. It didn’t, because BT sold the network to Telefonica in 2005 and it ended up being rebranded as a little thing called O2. Nine years later BT has confirmed it’s in talks to bring the network back into the fold.

Apparently the deal will involve BT handing over €14 billion (£11 billion) and a 20% stake of itself over to Telefonica, a deal that isn’t too shabby when you realise Telefonica originally paid £18 billion for O2 in 2005.

Nothing appears to be set in stone, and a BT spokesperson said this to the Financial Times:

“We have received expressions of interest from shareholders in two UK mobile network operators, of which one is O2, about a possible transaction in which BT would acquire their UK mobile business. All discussions are at a highly preliminary stage and there can be no certainty that any transaction will occur.”

The increasing competition in the quad-play market (providers who supply TV, internet, landlines, and mobile coverage) is heating up, and it’s likely that BT would want to get into this game and compete with the likes of Virgin and TalkTalk. What a takeover of O2 would mean for O2 customers is unclear, but it would help Telefonica to relive some of its €43 billion debt.

I’m just hoping that if this deal goes through it won’t mean all O2 Wi-Fi gets replaced with BT Openzone hotspots.

Tom Pritchard

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