Three and Vodafone merger talks 'progressive and positive' - Three UK CFO

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FILE PHOTO: GSMA's 2023 Mobile World Congress (MWC) in Barcelona

LONDON (Reuters) -The chief financial officer of Hutchison's Three UK said talks with Vodafone about combining their networks in Britain were "progressive and positive", although he declined to comment on the outcome.

Discussions "are moving in the right direction", Darren Purkis added in an interview after the mobile operator reported results on Thursday. "I think there is a desire from both parties."

Vodafone said in October it was in talks with its smaller rival to combine the country's third and fourth biggest networks, with an ownership split of 51% Vodafone and 49% Three's owner, Hong Kong's CK Hutchison.

"A merger of this size is complex, so there's a lot of moving parts and we just need to continue working through the list," Purkis said.

Complexities include the fact that Vodafone and Three are in separate network-sharing agreements, as well as untangling Vodafone UK's ties with its parent group.

Sources have said the talks are in the final stages.

Purkis said Three was pleased overall with its progress in a challenging macroeconomic environment in 2022.

The operator reported a 3% rise in revenue to 2.52 billion pounds ($3.04 billion), driven by a 6% increase in its active customer base to more than 10 million. Core earnings rose 3% to 612 million pounds.

($1 = 0.8301 pounds)

(Reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by William James, David Goodman and Jan Harvey)