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Twitter writes off SoundCloud investment; Telefónica launches AI assistant

TOP NEWS

* Twitter Inc. has written off about 500 million Swedish kronor in SoundCloud Ltd., reports Digital Di. Twitter's return on its investment in SoundCloud, in which it had considered buying every share, has been disappointing.

* Telefónica SA launched its digital assistant, Aura, in Germany, Spain and the U.K., as well as Argentina, Brazil and Chile. The artificial intelligence-powered assistant can be operated via a mobile app. Aura will also be available through Facebook Messenger in Germany and Chile, and will be incorporated in Microsoft Corp.'s Cortana and Google Assistant in 2019.

* Telecom Italia SpA's board of directors has given CEO Amos Genish the authority to finalize a deal to sell the company's stake in Persidera and to consider other offers. Directors agreed that the stake in Persidera is "not a strategic asset" for the Italian operator. Infrastructure fund F2i and tower company Rai Way SpA has an existing offer to acquire Telecom Italia's stake in Persidera.

UK AND IRELAND

* Tech companies such as Facebook Inc. and Alphabet Inc. unit Google Inc. could soon pay higher taxes in the U.K. if the country's Treasury decides to tax their revenues rather than their profits, London's The Guardian reports. In March, Chancellor Philip Hammond is expected to announce the results of a Treasury-led consultation launched in November 2017 on updating the tax system in step with online platforms' operations.

* Former FremantleMedia International distribution and sales Vice President Joss Duffield will become Turner Broadcasting System Inc.'s regional syndication director for the U.K. and northern Europe, effective immediately, TBI Vision reports. Duffield will supervise licensing deals of the Time Warner Inc. unit's kids and entertainment content. FremantleMedia International is a unit of FremantleMedia Ltd.

* Ofcom has created a draft decision to bring down the upfront cost of building full-fiber broadband networks by half, with the goal of having increased broadband investments until 2020. In line with this aim, the British regulator has called on British Telecom infrastructure division Openreach to repair faulty infrastructure and to allow room for extra fiber cables for operators who will be using its facility.

* In response, British Telecom said that Ofcom's proposal to reduce costs of full-fiber broadband networks would cause an impact to Openreach's revenue and profit in the range of £80 million to £120 million in 2018-2019. A surge in Openreach's cost base may also occur due to higher minimum service level requirement in the wholesale local access markets.

GERMANY, SWITZERLAND AND AUSTRIA

* Telefónica Deutschland GmbH introduced a new digital transformation program, Digital4Growth, which is anticipated to help boost operating income by €600 million between 2019 and 2022.

* Samsung Group's German unit has appointed Olaf May as head of Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd.'s business-to-business segment in Germany, effective immediately. May most recently served as IT and mobile communication vice president of Samsung Electronics and was previously the head of Samsung's consumer business for mobile products.

FRANCE

* French telecom regulator Regulatory Authority for Electronic Communications and Posts authorized Orange SA and Bouygues Telecom SA to use the 3600 MHz to 3700 MHz frequency for the technical experimentation of a 5G system. Orange is authorized to use the frequency in Lille and Douai from June 1, 2018 to June 1, 2019 and Bouygues Telecom in Bordeaux, Lyon and Villeurbanne until Sept. 30, 2020.

* The Paris high court denied Apple Inc.'s request to keep tax and globalization activist Attac from demonstrating in Apple stores. The court ruled as long as there is no violence or vandalism and customer access is not blocked, the group is acting within its rights to freedom of expression and assembly.

* StudioCanal, owned by Vivendi's Canal Plus Group, is launching a TV series production unit, Variety reports. Maxime Saada, Canal Plus CEO and StudioCanal president, said the new unit will leverage in-house expertise and will also be open to co-developing with outside partners.

NETHERLANDS, BELGIUM AND LUXEMBOURG

* Orange and KPN NV and internet of things connectivity platform supplier Actility SA revealed the first successful field test of actual roaming between nationwide public internet of things networks, opening up the possibility of connecting sensors or trackers that move between countries. The testing involved Orange devices operating on the KPN network in the Netherlands and KPN devices operating on Orange's network in France.

* Proficiency, a Dutch company providing tools and workshops for time management, has signed a strategic partnership with U.S.-based tech company IBM Corp., reports Dutch IT-Channel. The companies will work together on multicloud, big data and cognitive computing.

* Ziggo NV is working to make its Ziggo Go app suitable for smart TVs, reports TotaalTV. UPC Poland, also a company from the operator's mother company Liberty Global plc, has recently developed apps for Android TV and Apple TV.

NORDIC COUNTRIES

* Ericsson AB has reached an internet of things-based strategic cooperation framework agreement with China Mobile Ltd. The deal will explore joint internet of things opportunities and will also see Ericsson help China Mobile to expand its internet of things business worldwide.

* Norway has presented an ambitious strategy to develop a strong national data center sector, the government said. The Norway As A Data Centre Nation strategy will offer tax relief to stimulate capital investment in data center projects.

* UBS Group has raised its "holding" in TDC A/S to over 7.3% of shares and voting stock, the company said. UBS, which is acting for an unknown third party in the share-building, told TDC it had accumulated shares and financial instruments in the telco over recent weeks.

* Nokia Corp. said that its unit Nokia Oyj is on course to acquire the U.S.-based software firm Unium Inc., which develops wireless networking solutions. The acquisition will bolster Nokia's home Wi-Fi services portfolio. Unium develops wireless networking solutions for mission-critical and residential Wi-Fi applications.

SOUTHERN EUROPE

* Telecom Italia and Canal Plus Group SA's planned joint venture is still on despite difficulties in bringing it forward, Reuters reports, citing a source. The source's statement follows reports from Il Sole 24 Ore and Il Messaggero that the agreed partnership between Telecom Italia and the Vivendi SA unit has been cancelled.

* Telefónica's Movistar declined to bid for the Champions League and La Liga broadcasting rights in an attempt to pressure Mediapro to bring down the cost of broadcasting rights of sports matches in Spain, Advanced Television reports. Vodafone Group Plc's Vodafone España SAU and Orange España may also refuse to bid for the rights to air the sports matches due to the high licensing costs.

* Mediaset SpA is targeting to launch two free-to-air channels this year, Advanced Television reports. Focus, a Discovery Italia Srl-distributed entertainment factual channel, and 20, a channel that will consist of movies and TV series, is anticipated to be available via the Tivusat direct-to-home platform. Discovery Italia is a unit of Discovery Communications Inc.

EASTERN EUROPE

* Cyfrowy Polsat SA's has delayed the deadline to subscribe for the sale of 19.3 million shares until April 9, Reuters reports. In December 2017, the Polish company opened the placement of subscription for a tender offer of Netia SA shares for 5.77 Polish zlotys per share.

* ZTE Corp.'s Russian unit will be selling its new LTE-router ZTE MF903 in retail chains Sitilinik and Svyaznoy towards the end of February, Telecompaper reports. The router, which has broadband speeds of up to 150 Mbps, is expected to have a retail price of 5,900 Russian rubles.

FEATURED NEWS

As European TV pushes into virtual reality, monetization challenges lie ahead: Nearly half a decade after Facebook's $2 billion acquisition of Oculus — arguably the first major push in virtual reality — headset sales have fallen short of projections and monetization of VR platforms has been slow to materialize.

FEATURED RESEARCH

Western Europe set for major boost in TV Everywhere experience: The next phase of TV Everywhere in the EU: dropping geo-blocking and employing single sign-on.

Global Multichannel: Global markets update – Austria, Czech Republic: Kagan, a media research group within S&P Global Market Intelligence, has recently updated Global Multichannel & Broadband analysis for two markets.

Daniela Latini, Sylvia Edwards Davis, Charlotte van Hek and Gerard O'Dwyer contributed to this report. The Daily Dose has an editorial deadline of 7 a.m. London time. Some external links may require a subscription.