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Eurobites: Orange Says 'Non' to Mergers

Paul Rainford

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Telefónica/E-Plus merger gets the EC green light; Anite profits nearly halved; Fon enters Romania.

  • Orange (NYSE: FTE) has issued a terse statement effectively saying that any plans it might have had for a merger in its domestic market were now off the table. The statement says: "Orange has examined the possibilities of participating in an operation that would lead to consolidation in the French telecoms market, and believes that it cannot pursue this avenue at the present time as the conditions that the Group has set have not been met." There had been speculation that rival mobile operator Bouygues Telecom , which had earlier failed in its bid to buy SFR , had been in its sights, but it's clear nothing is happening in that department, for the time being at least. (See Eurobites: Orange Eyes Bouygues, EE IPO and Eurobites: Orange in French M&A Talks.)

  • One merger that looks like it is going ahead is that of Telefónica Deutschland GmbH and E-Plus Service GmbH & Co. KG . The European Commission has given its official blessing to the union, subject to Telefónica's full implementation of a package of commitments it submitted to Brussels to encourage a positive verdict. There are three main elements to these commitments: Telefónica must sell up to 30% of the merged company's network capacity; it must divest radio wave spectrum and "certain assets" either to a new mobile operator or MVNO; and it must extend existing wholesale agreements with the merged companies' existing partners and to offer wholesale 4G services to all interested parties in the future. (See Euronews: KPN to Sell E-Plus for €8.1B.)

  • Handset testing firm Anite plc saw its full-year pre-tax profits almost halved at ₤14.9 million (US$25.5 million), down from ₤29.5 million ($50.6 million) in the previous year. In Anite's results statement, Chief Executive Christopher Humphrey acknowledged the "challenging first half market conditions" but promised that Anite is now "entering an exciting new phase in its development."

  • Fon Wireless Ltd. , the carrier WiFi provider, has joined forces with Romtelecom S.A. to offer the Romanian operator's customers free access to WiFi hotspots in Romania and abroad. Fon claims to be the world's largest WiFi network, with almost 13 million hotspots. (See Fon Raises $14M.)

  • UK infrastructure provider Gigaclear is ratcheting up its rural broadband rollout, raising an additional ₤7.8 million in additional funding this week, reports the Financial Times (subscription required). Gigaclear specializes in providing high-speed broadband to towns and villages that BT has decided are beyond the reach of its fiber network.

  • The messy war between Sunni Muslim extremists and Iraqi government forces rages on, but Reuters reports that a ban on the use of social media -- which was intended to disrupt the communications of the Sunni militants -- has been lifted. Pressure from non-governmental organizations operating in the region has been cited as a possible reason for the 17-day ban being lifted.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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