BT’s takeover of mobile network EE took a step forward today after 99.73% of the broadband and fixed line giant’s shareholders approved the £12.5bn deal at a special General Meeting convened in Central London today.
Last year it emerged that the UK’s biggest broadband provider was in talks with the owners of both EE and O2 about a possible takeover, putting BT in the enviable position of being courted by two competing sellers.
After assessing the two deals on the table BT announced it would enter exclusive talks with EE’s shareholders, Deutsche Telekom and Orange, and in February confirmed final terms for the takeover.
BT had already signed a wholesale agreement with EE to power a new consumer mobile service but the firm’s managers ultimately decided that outright ownership of a network better suited their ambitious plans to create a single indoor-outdoor network providing constant voice and data connectivity.
Many analysts expect the deal, which still has to be approved by competition authorities, to radically shake up the UK’s telecoms market as BT seeks to win over customers by offering bundles of mobile, broadband, home phone and TV services on a single bill.
Earlier this month the firm unveiled the first iteration of that strategy with the launch of a range of SIM-only 4G plans costing as little as £5 per month.
BT’s rivals have expressed concern about the deal which they say would give it too much power in the telecoms market.
Some are hoping the Competition and Markets Authority’s scrutiny of the deal will result in either tighter regulation of BT or the forced sale of its Openreach network division.
In addition to the CMA probe, the EE takeover helped spur Ofcom into launching its own investigation into the current state of the UK telecoms market.
Since news of the BT/EE deal first broke the sector has seen a number of developments including Sky’s announcement that it plans to launch its own mobile service and the owners of Three agreeing terms to buy O2.