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BT finalizes deal to buy EE: source

A BT logo is seen on the door of a telephone box in Manchester, northern England January 30, 2015. REUTERS/Phil Noble

LONDON (Reuters) - BT (BT.L) has reached agreement with Orange (ORAN.PA) and Deutsche Telekom ‎(DTEGn.DE) to buy their UK mobile network operator EE and a deal could be announced as early as Thursday morning, a person familiar with the situation said.

BT, Britain's biggest fixed-line telecoms provider, has been in exclusive talks since December to buy the country's biggest mobile network operator for 12.5 billion pounds ($19 billion) in preference to buying Telefonica's (TEF.MC) O2.

BT declined to comment.

In December BT said that if the deal went through it expected to pay for EE with a roughly 50:50 split of cash and shares for a combined value of 12.5 billion pounds, although Deutsche Telekom will get a 12 percent stake in BT and the right to appoint one board member while France's Orange will get more cash and only a 4 percent stake in BT.

BT said that by buying the country's biggest superfast mobile network it would accelerate its plans to give retail customers seamless access to the Internet whether via fiber broadband in buildings or with wi-fi hotspots and 4G mobile services.

It will also enable BT to cut costs through the rationalization of networks and operations and to sell broadband to EE customers that it does not already serve.

However, the consolidation of the UK telecoms markets is far from over as operators look to sell consumers bundles of fixed and mobile telephony, broadband and television services.

Last month Hutchison Whampoa <0013.HK> agreed to buy O2 UK, for up to 10.25 billion pounds, with a view to merging it with its own Three network to create what would be the biggest UK mobile operator in terms of subscriber numbers.

(Reporting by Kate Holton; Writing by Karolin Schaps and Greg Mahlich; Editing by David Evans)