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The parent company of Three is still interested in a deal for its UK mobile broadband rival O2, it has been reported.

According to the Sunday Times, Hutchison Whampoa, which is controlled by Hong Kong-based Li Ka-shing, has entered early-stage discussions with O2's owner Telefonica.

Rumours of a potential takeover bid emerged in the run-up to Christmas, and the news provider believes there is substance to these reports.

Telefonica has owned O2 - the UK's second-largest mobile network - for almost a decade, having acquired the operator from BT in 2005.

BT was believed to be considering a re-acquisition of the mobile network; however, it is now fully focused on a takeover bid for EE.

This opens the door for Three to make a move, should the company look to expand its mobile market presence and coverage in the UK.

Back in November, Jose Maria Alvarez-Pallete, Telefonica’s Chief Operating Officer, hinted that O2 may be up for sale.

"If the UK market goes convergent then we will need to evaluate our option," he stated.

"In the landscape as it stands today we are in good shape, but the position taken by BT when and if it launches in mobile will be a key event."

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