EE has revealed that it too is in talks with BT over the British telecoms company buying the mobile operator's UK business. It was already understood that BT was in talks with O2 to bring it back under its wing, but while it seems certain now that the company will acquire and re-enter the mobile network sphere, it could be through either existing carrier.
Yesterday, BT confirmed that it is in preliminary talks with Telefonića to buy back O2, the UK mobile phone network it previously owned. It had already been linked with launching its own mobile business in recent times, specifically because it acquired a large amount of 4G spectrum in the Ofcom auction, but it seems it wants to take on a ready-made established network rather than launch its own.
It was said that BT is willing to swap as much as a 20 per cent stake in its own company for the O2 mobile business. It is not known if this is the same deal on the table in its discussions with EE.
The talks with both networks are still at an early stage. BT hinted that it was talking to two different networks yesterday, saying that it had "received expressions of interest from shareholders in two UK mobile network operators about a possible transaction in which BT would acquire their UK mobile business" and confirming that it was "assessing the merits of an acquisition of a mobile network operator in the UK". However, it had only mentioned O2 by name.
EE itself has now confirmed that it is the other interested party, but claims that talks are just "highly preliminary exploratory discussions" at present.
EE already has a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) deal with BT already to supply network capacity for some of BT's activities.