* ITV PLC has begun beta testing BritBox with its staff in preparation for its U.K. launch later this year, TBI Vision reports. A briefing with the British Broadcasting Corp., ITV's partner for BritBox, has been conducted in which the streaming service was shown to select staff. The beta version is said to be only available within ITV's headquarters.
* Freenet AG, a majority shareholder in Swiss telecom group Sunrise Communications Group AG, continues to veto on a rights issue intended for the UPC Schweiz takeover. Sunrise stated it "remains convinced" that the transaction will create a "stronger and more valuable" company.
* Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. targets to hire about 1,500 professionals to work in its Russian research and development centers over the next six years, Telecompaper reports, citing RIA Novosti. The Chinese telecom equipment maker aims to employ 500 new staff by year-end alone at its facilities in Moscow and St. Petersburg.
UK AND IRELAND
* ITV has entered into a partnership agreement with La Liga to broadcast the soccer league's 2019-2020 season in the U.K. and Ireland.
* The BBC is pressuring independent TV producers to extend the availability of their content on iPlayer to one year, from the current 30 days, without paying extra licensing fees, London's The Guardian reports. The move comes after Ofcom conditionally approved the BBC's proposal to extend the catch-up window for iPlayer's shows. The British regulator, however stated that the BBC has to "adequately compensate" producers.
* Ireland's Data Protection Commission, or DPC, is nearing the conclusion of an investigation which is likely to involve WhatsApp in relation to the Facebook Inc. unit's adherence to the European Union's General Data Protection Regulation, Reuters reports. DPC Commissioner Helen Dixon is expecting to receive the results of the investigation in the coming days. However, a formal decision may still take months.
* SoftBank Group Corp. has written down its stake's value in OneWeb Ltd. by £380 million, as the British satellite company spent billions of its investors' funds on low-orbit satellites, London's The Daily Telegraph reports. SoftBank Group took an impairment loss on its OneWeb stake earlier this year, while a few other early investors have lost almost half of the value of their stakes, the report said, citing a source.
* NorthEdge Capital LLP-managed funds agreed to acquire Catalis PLC, a provider of publishing and support services to the gaming sector, for about £89.8 million in cash, according to a news release. Project Sword Bidco Ltd., a newly formed company indirectly controlled by the funds, will buy each Catalis share for £95.13. The agreement includes an alternative per-share offer of £36.57 in cash and 1 unit composed of about 5.9048 new ordinary shares and 585 new preferred ordinary shares in Bidco's ultimate holding company, Project Sword Topco Ltd.
GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA
* Ariane Melanie Springer and Axel Sven Springer, the grandchildren of Axel Springer SE founders, have tendered some of their shares to KKR & Co.'s Traviata II SARL, according to a news release. The two shareholders' tender represents about 3.7% of the Axel Springer share capital of Axel Springer.
* One of Scout24 AG's top five shareholders has defended himself against claims by activist investors following the sale of car advertising portal AutoScout24 GmbH and a major share buyback. Jenny Davis, fund manager of U.K. asset manager Baillie Gifford & Co., who holds around 3.6% in Scout24, said she was concerned about the pressure the Scout24 management faced by a number of shareholders with conflicting opinions, reports Reuters.
* The expected suspension of the distribution of Altice France SA's channels on Freebox TV did not take place Aug. 16, Univers Freebox reports. In various communications from the Altice Europe unit, according to information published by Le Journal du Dimanche, Iliad's Free appealed against regulator Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel's decision, which led to setting the deadline to Aug. 27.
* Following confusion from customers, Free modified its website to mark a distinction between Freebox Delta 10G Fiber and Delta S 10G EPON Fiber, Univers Freebox reports. While the Freebox Delta S is compatible with 10G EPON fibre technology, this does not guarantee access at a speed of 10 Gbits/s.
NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM and LUXEMBOURG
* Shenzhen Goodix Technology Co. Ltd. has agreed to acquire NXP Semiconductors NV's voice and audio solutions for an undisclosed sum. The transaction includes employees which are based in Europe and Asia, as well as relevant intellectual properties.
* Swedish data center cloud services provider Hydro66 has launched in Belgium and will also be expanding into the Netherlands and Luxembourg, reports Computable. Patrick Smidts is serving as the company's director for Belgium, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, while Veerle T'jampens is the company's marketing manager.
* Radiocommunications Agency Netherlands has cooperated with the police to take action against a number of radio pirates in the Netherlands, reports TotaalTV. Actions included removing illegally placed mobile phone masts and terminating broadcasts that were made through the use of telecom providers' masts.
* Swedish fiber optic solutions company Hexatronic Group AB reported sales of 484.9 million Swedish kronor in the second quarter of 2019 ended June 30. Net profit increased to 20.2 million kronor from 19.8 million kronor a year earlier.
* The Norwegian data protection authority Datatilsynet is concerned about potential issues on Facebook's new cryptocurrency, Dagens Næringsliv reported. The authority expressed concerns regarding the protection of customers' data privacy and said that Facebook had not done enough to reassure the authorities.
* Finnish company Rabbit Films named Sam Ferguson as senior sales manager, based out of London, TBI Vision reports. Ferguson is joining Rabbit Films from ITV Studios Global Entertainment.
* Swedish home furnishings giant IKEA AB said that it is establishing a dedicated smart homes business unit. Ikea has worked with solutions like wireless charging, smart lighting and smart sound since 2012, and said that it is planning to increase investments in smart home solutions.
* Telecom Italia SpA said it launched its 5G service in Rimini, Italy, in line with the ongoing 40th Meeting for Friendship among Peoples. During the event, the telecom operator will demonstrate several 5G use cases, such as immersive virtual reality visits, digital applications and other services.
* The Portuguese government will present its 5G strategy in a Sept. 13 industry gathering, Telecompaper reports, citing sources mentioned by Economia Online. Meanwhile, the country's National Communications Authority is reportedly likely to grant new 5G licenses through an auction.
* Kaspersky Lab ZAO opened its first Asia-Pacific transparency center in Cyberjaya Malaysia, New Straits Times reports. The center, in partnership with CyberSecurity Malaysia, will provide the Russian cybersecurity company's partners and government stakeholders with the ability to check the source code of Kaspersky's solutions.
* Russian company Dany Call is eyeing an October launch for its mobile virtual network operator services in Estonia under the Danycom Mobile brand, Telecompaper reports, citing Comnews.ru. Danycom Mobile will offer services through the network of Tele2 AB unit Tele2 Eesti AS.
* Ceske Radiokomunikace as has struck a partnership with the Czech Republic's Stredocesky region to work on the internet of things field, Telecompaper reports. The Czech operator agreed to provide complete infrastructure to support the Stredocesky administration's rollout of IoT-based data monitoring and infrastructure services.
M&A Replay: FCC OKs approval of T-Mobile/Sprint merger; Nexon to up stake in Embark Studios: U.S. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai formally recommended the approval of the proposed merger between T-Mobile US and Sprint, while Nexon said it is increasing its stake in Swedish game developer Embark Studios.
Wireless Investor: Low/mid-bands to aid 4G and help deploy 5G in Latin America: In Latin America, total spectrum for six covered markets Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico and Peru totaled 2,893 MHz at the end of 2018, up by 120 MHz compared to 2017. The year-over-year gain follows Mexico's June 2018 2.5/2.6 GHz auction.
Swisscom H1'19 revenue down 2.4% YOY on service, hardware declines: The Swiss telecom operator posted group revenue of CHF5.66 billion for the first half of 2019, a decrease of 2.4% from year-ago figures.
Anne Freier, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Charlotte van Hek and Esben Svendsen contributed to this report.
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