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Virgin Media begins COO search; RCom offers legal settlement with Ericsson

TOP NEWS

* Liberty Global PLC has begun the search for a new COO for its Virgin Media unit, tapping headhunter Spencer Stuart for the task, London's The Daily Telegraph reports. The successful candidate is reportedly expected to work alongside current CEO Tom Mockridge, who is preparing to step down in 2019, as part of a "managed transition."

* Anil Ambani-owned Reliance Communications Ltd. has offered to resolve an eight-month dispute with Swedish telecom giant Ericsson outside the purview of the Indian insolvency tribunal and quasijudicial authority, the National Company Law Tribunal, The Economic Times reports, quoting people familiar with the matter. Ericsson had filed three petitions, all of which were admitted by the Mumbai bench of the NCLT, in a bid to draw RCom into insolvency and bankruptcy proceedings to recover pending dues.

* With 5G deployment moving closer to becoming a reality in the U.K., the technology's challenging economics and growing cyber security threats could prove to be major stumbling blocks, telecoms professionals discussed at a seminar in London.

UK AND IRELAND

* Sky Ireland rolled out Sky Fibre, a 1 GB broadband service, Dublin's The Irish Times reports. The Sky PLC unit plans to spend hundreds of millions of euros over the next five years to deploy the service across Ireland.

* Rakuten Inc.'s Rakuten TV has acquired TalkTalk TV's off-net transactional base, which comprises customers that are not subscribed to TalkTalk Telecom Group PLC's TV and broadband packages. The deal will allow Rakuten TV to reach more than 3 million U.K. users as part of its expansion plans.

* The British Broadcasting Corp. named John Low chair of its Appeals Advisory Committee, a body that independently oversees and provides advice on the public broadcaster's involvement with charities and appeals.

GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA

* Deutsche Telekom AG said its 2018 broadband strategy is to provide 26 million households with 100 Mbps and 15 million households with 250 Mbps. With €5.4 billion dedicated to networks and new data centers in Germany in the past year, Deutsche Telekom will provide 80% of households and companies with high-speed internet by 2018-end, whether directly or indirectly.

* Only a quarter of German companies are confident they will be able to implement the new EU data protection rules on time, according to German IT and telecom association Bitkom. Out of 500 companies surveyed, 24% expect to be fully compliant with the rules by May 25, while one in three companies will have largely implemented them.

* Sky Deutschland GmbH and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles Germany have agreed on a cooperation among the Sky, Jeep and Alfa Romeo brands in various business divisions. The partnership includes content-marketing elements and distribution activities, as well as a comprehensive media package to increase the brand relevance of Jeep and Alfa Romeo.

FRANCE

* Vivendi SA published first-quarter revenues of €3.1 billion, up 16% year over year. Vivendi's supervisory board also approved the proposal to take the preliminary legal steps for a potential change in the shareholding structure of its unit Universal Music Group.

* Altice NV, to be renamed Altice Europe after the split from Altice USA Inc., announced first-quarter revenues of €3.53 billion, down 1.2% compared to the same period in 2017, and EBITDA of €1.26 billion, down 2.3% year over year. The new management team is led by board President Patrick Drahi. Alain Weill, currently chairman and CEO of Altice France, will become CEO of Altice Europe, while Armando Pereira, currently CEO of SFR Telecom, will serve as Altice Europe's COO.

* Bouygues SA subsidiary Bouygues Telecom SA posted sales of €1.28 billion in the first quarter, up 6% year over year. EBITDA reached €247 million, up €28 million year over year. Subsidiary TF1 Group reported sales of €499 million, down 1% versus first-quarter 2017 figures, with an operating profit of €38 million, up 5% year over year.

NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG

* John de Mol's media company Telegraaf Media Groep NV wants to sell Dutch news website GeenStijl, Adformatie reports, citing sources. Geenstijl, which is part of TMG's publishing branch News Media, would be the only platform going on sale, as sister websites such as Dumpert would remain part of TMG.

* Digital rights organization Bits of Freedom will appeal the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets' decision not to halt the Datafree Music service from T-Mobile Netherlands. BOF said T-Mobile's service, which allows users to stream unlimited music without extra internet costs, is against the net neutrality law.

* Belgian public broadcaster VRT will by stop broadcasting via DVB-T by the year's end. According to VRT, they fully want to focus on their platform VRT Nu for their online offering.

* Benu Networks, a provider of virtual network solutions that enable service providers to create and deliver IP services, said Belgian provider Telenet has selected their Virtual Service Edge platform to enable the delivery of managed service offerings for the small office/home office and SME markets.

* RTL Group reported a slight increase in total revenue to €1.4 billion in the first quarter of 2018, as higher revenue contributions from its main broadcasting markets of Germany, France and the Netherlands were partly balanced by negative exchange rate effects amounting to €29 million. Underlying revenue was up 2.6% year over year, while RTL confirmed its full-year outlook for 2018.

NORDIC COUNTRIES

* Nokia Corp. appointed Sri Reddy co-president of its Nokia IP/Optical Networks business group and a member of the group leadership team, effective immediately. He will split responsibilities with Basil Alwan, president of the ION business group.

* Danish gaming company Better Collective A/S is planning a public listing on the Stockholm stock exchange by year-end. The company said the IPO will help its development and growth, and that the capital raised will be used for acquisitions.

* The Danish government announced that a new telecom policy for Denmark had been agreed upon and signed by all parties in parliament. The agreement includes both an overall framework for a telecom policy, as well as specific initiatives to promote good coverage, new technologies and favorable conditions for telecom industry investments.

* Three Sweden won the contract to provide mobile network services to national road agency Trafikverket. The services includes monitoring and control of speed cameras, speed signs and weather stations. The cooperation extends to 2022, with a possibility of extension.

* Finnish telecom regulator Ficora is accepting applications for program concessions for radio, for the concession period starting in 2020. This applies to all analogue radio licenses. The concession period begins in January 2020 and lasts for 10 years.

SOUTHERN EUROPE

* Vivendi may call a new meeting with Telecom Italia SpA shareholders in an attempt to change the latter's board, Reuters reports. The move comes after activist fund Elliott moved to take over majority of the Italian operator's board.

* Meanwhile, Telecom Italia CEO Amos Genish said he feels that he has the support of the new board in pushing through with his plans and proposals for the company, Reuters reported separately.

* Telecom Italia has also requested the Italian government to approve a temporary layoff scheme for about 4,000 employees, Reuters reported, citing a source. Part of TIM's plan is to adjust its employment and align it with the company's strategy and the market demand.

* Cosmote SA purchased 47,497 of its own shares as part of its share buyback program. The Greek operator spent €515,822.60 for the share repurchase, or about €10.86 per share.

* Telefónica SA eyes to invest about €6 million in the next three years for the construction of a 300-square-meter internet of things cybersecurity and smart city data center in Valencia, Spain, Telecompaper reports.

EASTERN EUROPE

* Lithuania's Radio and Television Commission has notified British regulator Ofcom about U.K.-licensed Russian channel NTV Mir Baltic's violations against Lithuanian and European laws, Broadband TV News reports. The Lithuanian regulator said it may suspend the channel for broadcasting a program that provided a hostile opinion on Lithuania during the Second World War.

* Russian mobile operator MegaFon said its board of directors approved the planned issuance of nonconvertible exchange bonds worth 100 billion Russian rubles, subject to registration with the Moscow Exchange. The board also nominated candidates for the company's management board in an election during the upcoming annual general shareholders' meeting. The list of nominees includes, among others, General Director and CEO Sergey Soldatenkov, executive director Gevork Vermishyan and COO Anna Serebryanikova.

FEATURED NEWS

Altice plays down M&A speculation in France amid rumored interest from Bouygues: Altice played down speculation of further M&A consolidation amid rumored interest for its struggling French division from Bouygues Telecom SA-owner Bouygues and co-investors.

Hires and Fires: Lachlan Murdoch to lead new Fox post Disney deal; Monster names CEO: 21st Century Fox Executive Chairman Lachlan Murdoch will serve as chairman and CEO at the new "Fox" company that will be created after the company's proposed transaction with Disney. Scott Gutz is joining Monster Worldwide as company CEO.

Hires and Fires Europe: Vodafone CFO to assume CEO post; Iliad announces new leadership: S&P Global Market Intelligence presents a biweekly rundown of executive and board changes in the European media and communications industries.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Economics of Internet: State of Australia online video: Subscription: Australia is one of the most mature over-the-top markets in the Asia-Pacific region, yet we do not expect a near-term slowdown in overall paid subscribers growth.

RECENT EARNINGS

Games, social networks fuel Tencent's 61% YOY Q1 profit gain: The Chinese tech giant beat analyst estimates with a 61% year-over-year rise in first-quarter net profit, driven by its mobile gaming and social network businesses.

Daniela Latini, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Koen Pijnappels and Esben Svendsen contributed to this report.

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