Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Google to invest in Europe; Three pumps up the bandwidth; euNetworks adds fiber in Milan and Madrid.
Unpopular with staff, departing Proximus CEO Dominique Leroy appears to have incurred the displeasure of Belgian authorities over her sale of company shares only weeks before she quit her job to become CEO of Dutch incumbent KPN. Leroy is now under formal investigation for insider trading, according to a report from Belgian journal Knack, which cites "well-informed sources" close to the matter. According to the story, she has also directly confirmed that a search of her home and office has taken place. Authorities will be trying to figure out if Leroy sold shares for €285,342.40 ($315,357.57) having already decided to leave the company and knowing this move would trigger a fall in the share price. In a statement on the Proximus website, she had previously denied any wrongdoing and expressed "regret" about the affair. Today marks her final day as Proximus CEO. Originally set to leave in December, she is being ejected sooner than planned after employees reportedly went on strike. Their apparent complaint is that Leroy will have little commitment to negotiations about restructuring while she prepares to join KPN. Asked to comment on the reports, a spokesperson for Proximus said by email: "At this point we can only confirm that a search has taken place yesterday in Miss Leroy's office inside the Proximus building in Brussels. Miss Leroy has confirmed to press agency Belga that a search has also taken place at her home address and that these actions fit in the context of the investigation you refer to." (See Departing Proximus CEO Frogmarched Out to Chorus of Staff Boos and Eurobites: Proximus Boss Protests Innocence Over Shares Sale.)
Search engine giant Google will pump another €3 billion ($3.3 billion) into its European data centers, reports Reuters. During a press conference in Finland, CEO Sundar Pichai said the company would spend €600 million on expansion of its Finnish data center, implying the rest of the money may go on improvements to facilities in Belgium, Ireland and the Netherlands. The investment plans come despite Google's run-ins with European regulatory authorities, which have taken an increasingly tough line against US Internet giants they accuse of market abuses. Last year, Google was hit with a $4.9 billion fine by the European Commission because its pre-installed search software on Android was seen to block rivals.
Three UK, the smallest of the country's four mobile network operators, has started upgrading 6,000 sites that carry 80% of its traffic with new antennas and spectrum (at 1.4GHz, in the so-called "L band"). The operator said its overhaul would boost speeds for customers by at least 50%, depending on their handsets, and that some would experience improvements by the end of this year. It has also begun "recycling" its 3G spectrum for more up-to-date 4G technology at about 12,500 sites, indicating this will lead to speed improvements of up to 40%. The update was provided along with metrics showing that an average Three customer now uses about 10 gigabytes of data per month, against a UK average of 2.9 gigabytes. Three's customers can occasionally be seen walking into lampposts and falling down stairs as they remain glued to their smartphones. (See Three CEO: We'd Rather Take Huawei Risk Than Miss 5G Rewards and Attack of the Smombies, Dawn of the Wombie.)
Infrastructure company euNetworks has installed new fiber networks in Milan and Madrid, it said in a statement. The networks cover "key areas of bandwidth demand" including financial districts, it said, and provide connectivity between data centers. euNetworks currently owns and operates fiber networks in 17 European cities as well as a long-haul network across the region.
Telecom Italia and Spain's Telefónica are in talks to buy a mobile network from Brazil's Oi, which is exploring ways to avoid insolvency, reports Reuters. Oi hopes to raise more than 10 billion Brazilian reais ($2.4 billion) from a mobile sale, according to the report, which cites sources close to the matter. Telefónica declined to provide a comment to Reuters, while Telecom Italia denied that any discussions were underway.