Hutchison 3G, a unit of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa, has agreed to buy Orange Austria from France Telecom and a private equity firm in a deal valued at 1.3 billion euros ($1.7 billion) including debt.
In a statement on Friday, Hutchison said it would buy 100 percent of Orange Austria, confirming an earlier Reuters story. Hutchison shares jumped more than 3 percent to HK$76.20 on the news, bucking a flat overall market .
As a second leg of the deal, Hutchison will sell select assets of the company to Telekom Austria for 390 million euros, Telekom said in a separate statement on Friday.
The assets comprise frequencies, base station sites, mobile phone operator YESSS! Telekommunikation and certain intellectual property rights, the statement added.
Hutchison, controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing, has been expanding overseas. Hutchison 3G is already present in Austria under the brand name '3' and the deal would boost its position in the market against Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile and A1.
The deal will make Hutchison the third-biggest mobile phone operator in Austria, giving the company access to 2.8 million customers and a 22 percent market share, the Hutch statement said. It will have combined revenues of more than 700 million euros in 2011.
For France Telecom , the sale would be the second deal in an ongoing portfolio review aimed at exiting low-growth mature markets and returning cash to shareholders. It recently agreed to sell Orange Switzerland to private equity group Apax Partners for about 1.6 billion euros.
Orange Austria is jointly owned by France Telecom and Mid-Europa Partners.
Hutchison also owns 3G wireless network operations in Britain, Italy and Australia, among other countries. It competes with Britain's biggest mobile operator, Everything Everywhere — a joint venture of Orange and T-Mobile — Telefonica's O2 and Vodafone Group .
The wireless business, which had been losing money over the past decade but broke even in the second half of 2010, recovered further last year. Hutchison said it was expected to contribute to the conglomerate's profits in the second half of 2011.
France Telecom could not be reached for an immediate comment.
J.P. Morgan advised Hutchison group on the purchase, a source said. The source was not authorized to speak to the media.