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Eurobites: BT Buys Again

Ray Le Maistre
11/23/2006
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BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) dipped into its purse again today to make yet another purchase for its BT Global Services division, but the acquisition was a small one as the carrier bought carmaker Fiat's Brazilian telecom services business.

Why would BT do that? Because Fiat is one of its biggest managed services customers, having signed a five-year, €450 million ($583 million) deal in December last year. That deal also included BT buying Fiat's telecom services subsidiary Atlanet, which provided services to Fiat and other Italian businesses. (See BT Lands Italian Job.)

Similarly, the business BT has just acquired, Telexis Brasil, is a Fiat subsidiary that provides telecom services to the carmaker in Brazil.

And again BT inherits telecom services deals that Telexis has with other Brazilian corporates. The carrier says Telexis had revenues of $2 million in 2005.

This is becoming something of a habit. Back in July, BT dipped into its pocket to buy Telexis Polska, yet another Fiat telecom services subsidiary, this one, as its name suggests, in Poland. (See BT Buys Polish Outfit.)

BT isn't the only European organization working hard while the U.S. chows down on Thanksgiving turkey.

Ofcom examines NGA and ITV
U.K. regulator Ofcom has published two separate but equally interesting 'request for comment' documents this week that many British service providers will be crawling all over.

The first came earlier in the week, when Ofcom said it had invited satellite TV and broadband player Sky and TV company ITV plc (London: ITV) to comment on "whether BSkyB's acquisition of shares in ITV represents a change of control of one or more of the licences held by ITV plc." (See Sky Buys ITV Stake.)

Sky bought its 17.9 percent stake shortly after ITV announced a takeover approach from cable giant ntl group ltd. (Nasdaq: NTLI), a major Sky competitor. (See NTL Fancies TV Merger.)

NTL says ITV was keen on a merger initially, but that once Sky had bought a stake, ITV turned cool and spurned its bid. (See ITV Rejects $8.9B NTL Bid.)

In a statement, NTL said Sky's stake gave it "material influence over ITV," and that the holding "will reduce competition and raise plurality concerns in the UK media market. This is clearly not in the public interest."

So now Ofcom has to act as referee. At this week's FT World Communications conference, Ofcom CEO Ed Richards said Sky and ITV have 10 days to respond, and that Ofcom is working in step with the U.K.'s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) on the issue. "We hope to get the process completed in six to eight weeks but it could take longer," said Richards.

Ofcom's other document concerns next generation access (NGA) networks, an area where Richards said there are "some knotty questions" regarding regulation of what could be fiber, cable, wireless, or copper-based networks. (See Ofcom Checks Out NGNs.)

Richards said Ofcom is trying to get a sense of what's down the road so it can put an appropriate regulatory regime in place, which could include a total lack of regulation. The one thing Ofcom is aiming to do is ensure there are no surprises for anyone down the line. "We're aiming for a minimum of regulatory uncertainty. I am determined that, in a year's time, companies can't say they didn't know what the regulator was thinking" about NGAs, said Richards.

BT is currently rolling out its next generation of DSL access equipment to boost its access speeds up to 24 Mbit/s; mobile operators are deploying next generation 3G equipment in an effort to deliver true mobile broadband; and NTL is heading towards cable broadband speeds of at least 20 Mbit/s. (See Vodafone's 3G Broadband Service and 3 Plots Mobile Broadband.)

Consolidation crunch hits Intec
OSS firm Intec Telecom Systems plc (London: ITL) saw its share price fall 15 percent to 31.75 pence on the London Stock Exchange Wednesday after it issued a disappointing trading statement. (See Intec Provides Trading Update.)

The company, which sells retail and interconnect billing systems as well as mediation software, said that "against a backdrop of continuing commercial effects resulting from the consolidation in the US telecommunications market and the inherent uncertainty this is creating," it will have to defer some revenue recognition and will post full year revenues that are £5.5 million ($10.5 million) lower than previously stated, and will be "not less than £111.7 million" ($214 million).

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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