BT’s proposed acquisition of EE will create a ‘true UK digital champion’, according to BT chief executive Gavin Patterson, with consumers and businesses benefiting from further innovation and integrated services in a highly competitive market.
He was backed by EE chief executive, Olaf Swantee, who said the deal would result in continued investment to boost what he described as the ‘most digitally hungry country in Europe’.
The executives were speaking at the launch of a report which recognises there will be extraordinary growth in data usage, representing challenges and opportunities for the UK. Both executives believe the country will need a digital champion who is both willing and able to invest in ultrafast broadband and 5G.
Swantee also warned of the danger of allowing self-interested companies to obstruct the deal: ‘These competitors only want to put up roadblocks, while we want to build motorways for the UK’.
Telecom group TalkTalk launched an attack on the BT report, and commented in a statement: ‘It is unsurprising that BT and EE claim that their merger would deliver benefits for consumers, but the evidence of other markets and other industries does not support this. Quite simply, consolidation leads to reduced competition and a reduced incentive to innovate and, crucially, higher prices.’
In May, TalkTalk reported a 3.2 per cent rise in pre-tax profit to £32 millon for the year to the end of March, however, the company is only a minor quad-play provider in comparison with giants BT and EE. TalkTalk had earlier called for more competition and a “level playing field” in the UK’s internet services industry.
Patterson said the integrated company, following approval, would have the scale and expertise to deliver the UK’s connected future and help put ‘clear blue water’ between the UK and its international peers. He said other companies operating in the UK would be able to benefit and compete through highly regulated, equal access to Openreach’s network, and wholesale access to the EE mobile network.
Swantee highlighted how the merger between T-Mobile and Orange had unlocked investment and enabled EE to drive 4G forward in the UK. He said: ‘In BT and EE you are bringing together two companies with a similar core belief. Two companies that share a renewed commitment to network leadership, innovation and delivering the best for their customers.’