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Vodafone Confirm Three UK Merger Under National Security Probe

Monday, Feb 5th, 2024 (9:17 pm) - Score 16,960

The CEO of Vodafone Group, Margherita Della Valle, has revealed that their proposed mega-merger with Three UK (CK Hutchison) is being reviewed by the Government under the National Security and Investment Act 2021, which reports suggest is linked to CKH’s perceived ties to China and any potential risks of access to sensitive national infrastructure.

The issue of security is one that has come up a few times before, with some MPs being particularly concerned (here), although until now there has been no solid confirmation that the merger might end up being subject to a review under the new NSIA (or NSA, as some term it).

NOTE: The merger, if approved, would see Vodafone retain a 51% slice of the business and CK Hutchison (Three UK) hold 49%. But there’s talk of diluting the Chinese share over time.

The government has similarly been trying to avoid scenarios in which countries like China secure key positions in critical national infrastructure, such as telecoms. On the flip side, CKH may well point out that they already control some UK ports and power networks, although telecoms is generally considered to be a much more sensitive topic.

According to the Telegraph (paywall), Vodafone’s CEO was today asked directly whether the UK Government would be reviewing the merger under the NSIA and the answer came back.. “Yes, absolutely.” The review is said to be progressing “as planned“, although what will really matter is the outcome.

Margherita Della Valle said:

“As with all similar deals, we are engaged in the NSA process for the merger between Vodafone and Three. [Both companies have been subjected to] very strict protocol in terms of data protection law [and] telecoms security regulations … I think it proves the rigorous protocols we are all under and constitutes a model that is applicable for different situations.”

The reality, we suspect, is that this review probably won’t cause a serious obstruction to the proposed merger. In fact, the Government recently raised (here) a not dissimilar concern about the risk of a 14.6% stake in Vodafone that was being held by a United Arab Emirates (UAE) group called e& (no, that’s not a typo).

In response to concerns over a national security risk, the Government ordered Vodafone and e& to address the matter by establishing a special committee to oversee any work that may have a bearing on British security, as well as some additional transparency measures. Something similar may end up being expected as part of the proposed merger.

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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34 Responses
  1. Avatar photo The future says:

    The only solution there is for Vodafone UK to not merge but acquire it buy it that CK Hutchison has tie with china

    1. Avatar photo JP says:

      I wouldn’t be suprised if this was the plan all along 🙂

    2. Avatar photo Mark Smith says:

      Really? Even with Vodafone managing to cut its colossal debt pile down to £33billion through some recent fire sales of its assets, it’s in no shape to be taking over Three or anyone else. The interest rate on its debt pile is mouth watering.

    3. Avatar photo XGS says:

      They had the cash having sold a big asset in the US but gave much of it to shareholders to prop up their share price. They don’t have said cash anymore.

      There’s also that their profitability in the UK sucks. They make far more profit elsewhere so why borrow all that money to continue not making much cash in the UK and increase interest payments?

  2. Avatar photo Say no to 'VodaThree' says:

    I really hope this doesn’t go through. Less competition will just increase prices for everyone.

    1. Avatar photo The Future says:

      More foreign call centres

    2. Avatar photo JP says:

      Prices are going up regardless, the offers are soon gonna end.

  3. Avatar photo Jack says:

    If a merger of Vodafone & Three requires a national security investigation, doesn’t that mean Three on it’s own is currently a national security risk?

    1. Avatar photo Bob says:

      Vodafone under its own control has way more critical infrastructure than Three. Three might have none. Merger would potentially allow Three owners to access/tinker with Vodafone stuff which is not good.

    2. Avatar photo JP says:

      To answer Jacks question, YES, IT SHOULD DO!

      Why it matters what networks operate what or have non contracts should contradict the matter, if there is a potential for any ammount of unwarranted sabotage then it would be a problem and potenttially life threatening, though at the moment the threat from China is miniscule compared to the dog we’re already in bed with.

    3. Avatar photo Big Dave says:

      The government has lots of contracts with Vodafone, including MOD and the police. Any Chinese involvement would definitely be of concern.

    4. Mark-Jackson Mark Jackson says:

      A probe under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 doesn’t necessarily mean that X company is a national security risk, it just means that concerns may exist and need to be checked as part of the new process – particularly for large deals. I think it may be better to think of this more like the competition watchdog (CMA), but just for security, where such probes are routine.

      Altice UK’s stake in BT also attracted a probe, despite being well below the threshold for control, and was later dropped.


      On the other hand, the NSIA is a new beast, so we’re still understanding its uses via application.

  4. Avatar photo Chris says:

    I wonder if the combined entity will address national security concerns by completely outsourcing the network management to a company such as Ericsson?

  5. Avatar photo Zakir says:

    If its national Security concern why are devices being built in China, isnt Three UK a security concern it self.

    If UK hasn’t got a good relationship with China you cant stop China they literally make most things in the world.

    The merger in my opinion should go ahead without any problems.

    Prices wont go up that much they will maintain the current pricing they said.

    Hop they take on Three prices ranges to

    1. Avatar photo Matt says:

      Ah yes. “They said” – The best thing to believe when companies merge.

      See: any other company merger at all, and see why you shouldn’t believe anything they say. At most they will guarantee 12mo of ‘no changes’ and then the layoffs come.

  6. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

    I detest Vodafone, at the moment I am using Smarty, which belongs to three, if they merge I have no idea where I will go since we will only have three networks, O2, EE and Vodafone if the merge goes ahead.
    EE is BT, so I would not go to anything on them so the only one would be O2 and which is part of Virgin Media and the last time I was with O2, the signal quality was, to be honest useless, granted that was in the days before I had a smart phone, but still.

    1. Avatar photo AD says:

      So you detest Vodafone just because of the name ? You do realise that when Three and Vodafone merge they will merge infrastructure (with some concessions of course) which may in turn improve your service.

      It’s no secret that Vodafone is more reliable than three when it comes to coverage (open signal, root metrics) it depends if you’re in a Vodafone host zone.

    2. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      I detest Vodafone because as a company their customer service stinks, they are overpriced and their network around here is useless.
      But my main problem with them is their customer service, I have never, ever used or been in touch with a company that has customer service that is as bad as Vodafone and I have been in contact with a few, not just for me, but for other people, including Talk Talk, BT and Sky

      I vowed when I left them that I would not use their network again.

    3. Avatar photo RightSaidFred says:

      At some point you surely have to realise that if you’re complaining about all of these companies then the common factor is you.

      Maybe you’re just a dick with unrealistic expectations.

      Most of the world gets by without ever needing to speak to their service providers.

    4. Avatar photo JP says:

      @Ad47uk – The customer service on all the networks stinks, though to be fair my in store experiance with Vodafone recently to resolve a Voxi sim issue was great :),

      Three have never responded to me when the said they would regarding network quality issues (on my business accounts too),

      EE had great customer service back in 2022, don’t know about now, and O2 just straight up sucked in 2022 when I was held to contract for a non-working service and the ombudsman played along with them so now I have a default on the device plan after stealing my number from them, Happier to pay lowell than O2 to be honest.

      As for network investment currently, Vodafones building and upgrading everything it seems so I can only see pro’s to the merger currently.

    5. Avatar photo Richard says:

      I detest Three. Absolutely the worst company I have ever dealt with.
      Lies, lies and more lies.

    6. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      @JP, I was with Plusnet mobile for a while and to be honest, they were good, even if they did belong to BT, customer service was ok. I know Plusnet was not a
      network provider, but no doubt was classed as a Virtual one. I left because Smarty was a better offer.

      I have not had any reason to get hold of Smarty and I have not had any real problems with them. The package I have got is cheap and they have rolled it on for another year, so that is three years now. I have 4GB for a fiver a month and unlimited text and calls, it is more than enough for what I use as my phone is connected to the Wi-fi when I am at home and other places. I use public wi-fi when out, I have a VPN, so that protects me. I use the wi-fi at work as well. so 4GB is ample.

      But I don’t like the idea of Vodafone taking over 3.

    7. Avatar photo Darren T says:

      Guys, they are all the same unless network coverage is a problem.

      Not choosing one company or another for any other reason then network coverage is stupid.

      Contract renewal, just swap to someone else and then back again and wherever else it might take you. There is no sense at all not going with someone else because of a shoddy customer service interaction.

      The people you probably had an issue with have more than likely long since gone or hat a foot up there arse. Equally, the service you like now may drop the ball and screw you over next month.

      The only loser in such a situation, ie ignoring x because of y ( other than coverage) is you. They sure won’t don’t give a crap.

  7. Avatar photo Jamie Simms says:

    I have a feeling that this is just a box ticking exercise with regards to Security concerns as the Home Office and MOD are currently moving all their mobile connections from Vodafone over to Gamma who use 3.

    In my mind all the secure data from staff of Military, Border Force, Fraud Team, Passport and Asylum would be more important than Becky from Birmingham Insta and Snapchat reels.
    I know Gamma are also in the mix to get the HMRC and other government contracts this year

  8. Avatar photo james smith says:

    If the merger or other went ahead what about the reduced competition? Three c-s is an outrage. Recently near me speeds dropped to 10s og gig download when it is normally hundreds. Three’s atitude, we don’t give a xxxx because ‘our systems’ say there is zero wrong.

    We need several proper options otherwise a fixed line type situ will arise where there is one supplier with joke competition

  9. Avatar photo H4ndyAndy says:

    Now is the time to Buy Buy Buy 😉

  10. Avatar photo Mark says:

    No one cared when Hutchison set up Orange in the UK in the 1990s in conjunction with British Aerospace

  11. Avatar photo chris ray gun says:

    Everytime i’ve used a three number i get scam and spam calls sometimes the same day i get the number, not sure if linked to china but they 100% sell your data.

  12. Avatar photo Sanford Charles says:

    Vodafone can now settle the disputeed £745.79 debitted from my Lloyds Bank account after notice to terminate the Service.
    Vodafone has accepted liability of DSAR and Hodge Jones and Allen Civil Liberties Lawyers £10,000.00 to settle that part Claims against it. Even Lloyds Bank Staff could reach a settlement with Vodafone. I believed it is because it is dealing with a Black man.
    Vodafone ought to realise the Mohammed gave the PIN 0907 and account number 7047246110

  13. Avatar photo Sanford Charles says:

    Even if Vodafone had continued debiting my account by mistake. The information on PIN 0907 and account number 7047246110 which were used to identify my ethnicity and to make up a lie to say I used Vodafone’s Services and data in Caribbean. Just to take back part of the monies debited from my account. IF Vodafone has the rights to full £745.79 why it continued to offer part payments.

    I have the evidence that it agreed and repudiated the agreements to settle. We will go to Courts Probably at the High Court. If it want it there to prove it is entitled to £745.79 and it is entitled to off a good will gesture and not the full amount that was taken.
    If Vodafone wants in the High Court, I will try and get it there.
    This shit could have ended at the end of May 2021 it is still going because Vodafone is dealing with a Black man.

  14. Avatar photo Sanford Charles says:

    I have an appointment with the RCJ Advice Triage Team on the 29th February 2024 to complete the N1 Claim Form and lodged.
    On the 30th January 2024 I sent a Pre Action Protacal by Recorded delivery to Mr. Ahmed Essam SHELBAYG CEO Chairman The Connection
    Newbury Berkshire RG14 7HP

    1. Avatar photo Sanford Charles says:

      Please use the above address and the Chairman Mr.Ahmed Essam SHELBAYG CEO, if he aware of these allegations and for his comments.
      Vodafone is an International organisational Corporate Company.
      Since its mergers with ” Three”!.
      It’s share rose 1.5%
      It it is the Same Amount I plan to ask the ICO Administrstor for the way I am treated for £746.79.

  15. Avatar photo Sanford Charles says:

    It obvious that I cannot represent these against Vodafone Vodafone’s Corporate’s lawyers and Solicitors in the High Court.
    I need a Journolist to the Chairman Mr.Ahmed Essam SHELBAYG CEO about the allegations Sanford Charles is making against him and his Company and his workers they are the ones who were ” Telling lies to say I used Vodafone’s Services in the Caribbean.
    I did use Vodafone’s Services in the St. Vincent and the Grenadines. I have the Lloyds bank statement when I bought a Telephone in St.Vincent.
    Unless Vodafone show I was on ” Roaming”
    All Vodafone wanted was to take back part of the monies they either deliberately or mistakingly debited from my account.
    Even February Vodafone is still offering me part payments.

    Vodafone wants it in the Court.

  16. Avatar photo Sanford Charles says:

    On the 25th January 2024 at RCJ Advice Triage Lawyers made out a Pre Action Protacal which I posted by Recorded delivery Post on 30th. I have an appointment with the RCJ LAWYERS on 29th February

Comments are closed

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