Mobile merger: $19 billion U.K. telecoms deal

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Britain's phone wars are heating up: BT is buying mobile operator EE for £12.5 billion ($19 billion).

The deal will create the U.K.'s largest communications operator, offering broadband, mobile and television services.

EE is the biggest 4G provider in Europe and has 31 million mobile customers in the U.K. It also runs the Orange and T-Mobile brands.

The firm is owned by Germany's Deutsche Telekom (DTEGF) and French telecoms firm Orange (FNCTF). Deutsche will gain a 12% stake in BT, and a seat on its board, once the deal goes through. Orange will hold a 4% stake.

The news sent BT (BT) shares up nearly 5% in London.

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The tie-up is the latest move in a wave of consolidation in the U.K. wireless sector, sparking concerns about reduced competition.

Britain's mobile sector is dominated by EE, Vodafone (VOD) and O2, which BT spun off in 2001 to help pay down debt.

Last month Li Ka-shing's Hutchison Whampoa (HUWHF) said it was in talks to pay up to £10.25 billion ($15.4 billion) for O2. The firm is owned by Spain's Telefonica (TEF).

Li is one of Asia's richest men, worth an estimated $33 billion. His sprawling business empire already includes Three, another of Britain's big mobile operators.

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