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Eurobites: EU Bigwig Wants to Relax M&A Rules

Paul Rainford
4/17/2014
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Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Russian operator makes a move on Crimea; Duma considers ban on foreign telecom kit; publishing boss turns guns on Google.

  • A leading candidate to become the next president of the European Commission has indicated that he is in favor of easing the EU antitrust laws which, he feels, are hampering much-needed consolidation in the region's telecom industry. In an interview with the Financial Times (subscription required), Jean-Claude Juncker says: "A first thing we should do is rethink the application of our competition rules in digital markets," a soundbite that will be music to the ears of a number of telco bosses.

  • The eyes of the world are on Ukraine right now, and it seems Russian operator Rostelecom is looking that way too. The Moscow Times, citing Kommersant, reports that the operator is setting up a branch office in Crimea with a view to investing 15 billion rubles (US$417 million) in developing a new network on the troubled peninsula.

  • The Moscow Times also reports that Russia's State Duma (or parliament) is considering a partial ban on foreign telecom equipment. The report, citing Lenta.ru, says a Duma committee has proposed a bill that will allow foreign-made telecom gear to be used in Russia only if there is no domestic equivalent. Defense and security concerns are being given as the reasons for the proposal.

  • Don't be evil? Eat my shorts! The Guardian reports that the head of Germany's Axel Springer SE publishing empire, Mathias Döpfner, has used an open letter in a German newspaper to accuse Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Eric Schmidt of effectively running a "protection racket," reinventing the search giant's company motto as "if you don't want us to finish you off, you better pay". Say what you mean, Mathias!

    Google's Eric Schmidt: He's probably not on Mathias Dopfner's Christmas card list.
    Google's Eric Schmidt: He's probably not on Mathias Döpfner's Christmas card list.

  • Orange (NYSE: FTE) has been celebrating a mobile money milestone: It has just signed on the 10 millionth customer of its Orange Money service. Ms. Kanny G, of Dakar in Senegal, won a smartphone and the local equivalent of €152 ($210) when she opened her account. Don't spend it all at once, Kanny G.

    Eurobites is taking a break for a chocolate-themed public holiday, and will return, refreshed, on Tuesday.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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    DOShea
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    DOShea,
    User Rank: Blogger
    4/20/2014 | 9:40:23 PM
    Juncker
    I guess companies like DT and Telefonica will be very happy to hear this, but also those from outside Europe that want a bigger piece, like Hutchison, Softbank and Carlos Slim
    Mitch Wagner
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    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    4/17/2014 | 3:00:20 PM
    Media monopolies
    I don't know how it is in Europe, but in the US, media companies such as newspapers and broadcasters had monoplies for decades on getting messages out to citizens. 

    If it was the same in Europe, then Mathias Döpfner's comments are just a former monopolist complaining that somebody else has all the marbles. 

    And in fact the Internet and Google have been better for competition, by permissing many more sources to get citizens' ears. In America past decades, even in a diverse market like the NY metropolitan area, you had eight or nine sources for information: A few TV and radio news outlets and a couple of newspapers. Now, you can go to Google News and get hundreds -- or if you don't like what you find there, you can go directly to individual Websites and find millions of sources of information. How does anybody lose except for monoplists like Mathias Döpfner?
    Mitch Wagner
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    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    4/17/2014 | 2:54:00 PM
    Russian equipment

    "The Moscow Times also reports that Russia's State Duma (or parliament) is considering a partial ban on foreign telecom equipment. The report, citing Lenta.ru, says a Duma committee has proposed a bill that will allow foreign-made telecom gear to be used in Russia only if there is no domestic equivalent. Defense and security concerns are being given as the reasons for the proposal."

    Is there enough of a Russian telecom hardware industry that this measure would have more than symbolic significance? Or worse for Russia — are the Russian products existent, but inferior to Western counterparts?

    Mitch Wagner
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    Mitch Wagner,
    User Rank: Lightning
    4/17/2014 | 2:53:32 PM
    Where are you Russian off to?

    Gotta wonder who in Rostlecom is going to staff that office in the Ukraine, a nation that seems on the verge of civil war. I'm thinking it's someone really popular, who never remembers to contribute to the office coffee fund.

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