Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa is in talks to buy Telefonica's British mobile unit O2 in a deal valued at more than 10.25 billion pounds ($15.4 billion), the company said Friday, as Asia's richest man makes one of his biggest bets yet to revamp his European telecoms business.
The agreement is likely to be announced on Friday and will mark the latest move towards telecoms consolidation in Britain, where the market is split between four mobile network operators and four separately owned fixed-line and broadband providers.
Shares of Hutchison Whampoa jumped more than 4 percent after resuming trade on Friday.
In December, former state monopoly BT entered exclusive talks with the owners of EE, Britain's biggest mobile operator. Hutchison already operates the Three Mobile network in Britain, and buying second-ranked O2 will make it the biggest operator in the country.
The move is expected to be one of the biggest acquisitions by Hutchison in its efforts to improve the performance of its European telecommunications business.
Three Group Europe reported total revenue of HK$31 billion ($4 billion) for the six months ended June, 2014, a 3 percent rise from a year ago. Its core earnings, or EBITDA, rose 15 percent to HK$6.5 billion in the same period.
The proposed deal comes close on the heels of the biggest business restructuring undertaken by Li's empire earlier this month. Under the plan, the tycoon's businesses will be split into two listed companies, one focusing on property and the second housing telecoms, ports, infrastructure and others.
Hutchison entered mobile telecommunications in 1983 and first ventured into Europe in 2000 through the 3G brand. However, the company has struggled to grow its European business.