Irish link for Vodafone and Hutchison

Vodafone and Hutchison Whampoa's 3 are close to agreeing a deal to merge their Irish telecoms infrastructure in the latest industry tie-up designed to save costs and boost coverage.

The merger will create a 50-50 venture that would result in the biggest network in Ireland while producing "significant" cost savings, one of the sources said, without elaborating on the size of the savings.

The talks follow a spate of similar deals across Europe where operators are looking for ways to upgrade their networks at a time when customers are cutting back on spending.