3 Group Europe / CK Hutchison

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"3" (or Three) is the brandname for the international mobile phone service controlled by the Hong Kong-based but Cayman Islands-registered conglomerate CK Hutchison Holdings (known until 2015 as Hutchison Whampoa). The group also has extensive global interests in energy, shipping and retail. In the latter sector, the group owns health & beauty retailer AS Watson, trading as Watsons in Greater China, as well as Kruidvat, Superdrug and other brands in Europe, Hong Kong supermarket ParkNShop and electronics chain Fortress. Previously, Hutchison had created the Orange mobile brand in the UK in 1999, but sold that business in 1999. Three was launched four years later. The brand now operates mainly in Europe, with a presence in six local markets. Each local unit operates more or less independently. Despite the group's best efforts, Three has until recently remained a niche brand, trailing some distance behind the local market leader in each country in which it operates, making it something of an expensive pet project for Hutchison's owner, billionaire Li Ka-shing. His deep pockets have allowed the group to build its presence through selective acquisitions such as Orange Austria in 2012 and O2 Ireland in 2013. However, a transformational deal agreed in 2015 to acquire larger UK rival O2 for over £10bn was subsequently blocked by regulators. Instead, Three UK acquired local wireless broadband operator Relish/UK Broadband for £300m in early 2017. In 2016, 3 Italia was merged with competitor Wind to form Wind Tre, a joint venture with what was then VimpelCom. Hutchison bought out its partner in 2018 to take full control. It is now local market leader in Italy by subscribers with 29.5m mostly prepaid users and over 37% share (ahead of national champion TIM). The UK was the next biggest market with 12.6m users at the end of 2017. The 3 brand is also present in several Asian markets, which are managed separately. The local service in Australia was folded into a joint venture with Vodafone in 2011. Combined revenues for 3 Europe in 2017 were around €7.6bn, and the business had around 52m total users by the end of the year. Canning Fok is chairman of Hutchison Telecoms. Mr Li effectively retired from the business in 2018 though he remains the effective owner, with the title of senior adviser. His son Victor Li is now chairman & managing director. Total revenues for CK Hutchison in 2017 were around US$53bn.

Capsule checked 28th February 2019

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Recent stories from Adbrands Update:

Adbrands Weekly Update 25th Oct 2018: Ads of the Week "Phones Are Good". Some brilliantly funny historical vignettes here in Wieden & Kennedy London's new campaign for challenger mobile brand Three. Our particular favourite is that caveman skit. (How did Deliveroo and pizza chain Franco Manca secure that nice little plug, we wonder?) Handily, this extended two-minute compilation is ready to be carved up into 30-second chunks for easy broadcast, and we'd bet on the caveman sequence for the most likes. To be honest, the whole thing is actually more of a promo for mobile phones in general, and the various clear advantages they offer over not having mobile phones. Three pokes its head in at the end to argue that it offers the best data packages overall, but in fact this could have been for any of the providers. Still a great ad, nevertheless.

Adbrands Weekly Update 13th Jul 2017: Ads of the Week: "Go Binge". The newest inhabitant of Wieden & Kennedy London's impossible Three mobile menagerie is the Dolph-a-Sloth, a worthy successor to last month's giraffeamingo. The charming campaign is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a cheesy old 80s song in your heart. Enjoy!

Adbrands Weekly Update 8th Jun 2017: Hutchison's Three mobile network appointed Shadi Halliwell as its new CMO in the UK to succeed Tom Malleschitz, who has been promoted to chief digital officer across the pan-European network. For the past three years Halliwell has been creative & marketing director of upscale retailer Harvey Nichols, overseeing a series of multi-awardwinning marketing campaigns. Before that though, she spent several years in the telecoms industry as a senior marketer at both BT and O2.

Adbrands Weekly Update 23rd May 2017: Ads of the Week: "Go Roam". Mobile operator Three still flies below the radar in most of the markets in which it operates so it always has to grab your attention with the odd and the unusual. Wieden & Kennedy London is pleased to be of service: the Giraffeamingo certainly counts as a memorable creation. We'd love to know what other hybrid animals came and went from the drawing board before they settled on the final choice. 

Adbrands Weekly Update 12th May 2016: As expected, EU regulators upheld the objections of their UK-based counterparts and blocked the proposed merger of mobile networks O2 and Hutchison Three. "Allowing Hutchison to take over O2 at the terms they proposed would have been bad for UK consumers and bad for the UK mobile sector. The remedies offered by Hutchison were not sufficient to prevent this." It is the latest development in the ongoing tug of war between state regulators and European mobile operators over consolidation. This ban now opens the way for alternative deals. Liberty Global, owner of Virgin Media in the UK as well as other European cable services, was quick to express its interest in O2. Any potential deal there would preserve the status quo of four major suppliers which regulators are so keen to preserve. Meanwhile, Three's owner Hutchison was said to be considering an approach to broadband service Talk Talk.

More about Hutchison Three from Adbrands Weekly Update

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