BT Group is expected to choose by early next week between British mobile operators O2 and EE to start exclusive talks over a potential merger, three sources with direct knowledge of the matter said on Thursday.
BT is, however, still pondering which of Spain’s Telefonica, the parent company of O2, and France’s Orange and Germany’s Deutsche Telekom, the two owners of EE, are the best long-term business partners as a deal would include a significant cash portion, the sources added.
In a sign that an outcome was nearing, Telefonica Chairman Cesar Alierta flew to London on Thursday to step up talks with BT. Orange and Deutsche Telekom, meanwhile, have agreed to match the Spanish group’s offer to be partly paid with BT shares in a bid to ease an accord, the sources also said.
Hutchison’s 3 group is for its part expected to shortly line up a bid for whichever mobile group is not teaming up with BT, two other sources said.
BT, Telefonica, Orange and Deutsche Telekom all declined to comment.
(Reporting by Julien Toyer and Robert Hetz in Madrid, Sophie Sassard and Kate Holton in London, Leila Abboud in Paris and Harro Ten wolde in Frankfurt, Editing by Sarah White)
This article originally appeared on Recode.net.