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EU's Almunia says 3-4 mobile operators may be enough

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - European Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said while monopolies and duopolies of European mobile telecoms companies were unacceptable, he had no objection in principle to a market with three or four players.

"We have no dogmatic position on the number of providers... There are countries with three, four or even five operators," German daily newspaper Handelsblatt quoted Almunia as saying.

His comments come after two mobile telecoms deals were met with regulatory scrutiny in Europe.

Germany's antitrust watchdog has said it would take a close look at KPN's 8.1 billion euro ($10.7 billion) sale of its German mobile business to Telefonica, which will reduce the number of operators in Germany to three from four.

In Austria, regulators told Hong Kong-based Hutchison to give back spectrum to get its purchase of Orange's local business approved.

"In principle, mergers among mobile telephony or between mobile telecoms companies and cable operators can have positive economic results, as long as prices remain reasonable," Handelsblatt cited Almunia as saying in an excerpt of an article to be published in Handelsblatt's Thursday edition.

Almunia also said he expects KPN and Telefonica to file for approval by the European Commission as well as the national regulator.

"Considering the size of the operators and the importance of their business it is absolutely logical that the Commission will decide on this," he said.

(Reporting by Maria Sheahan; Editing by Louise Heavens)

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