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Optical/IP

KPN Scopes Out More M&A

KPN Telecom NV (NYSE: KPN) is set to open its purse strings again as it looks to strengthen its business in North-West Europe.

As part of an update on its share repurchase program, the Dutch incumbent announced Tuesday that it's in talks to acquire Tele2-Versatel, the Belgian fixed line operation of pan-European service provider Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO), for about €100 million ($136 million). (See Versatel, Tele2 Merge Ops and Tele2 Sets M&A Ball Rolling.)

KPN already owns Belgian mobile operator BASE .

KPN, though, is not alone in eying up the Versatel business, which offers voice, data, and DSL services to businesses and consumers in Belgium. Tele2 noted today that its "subsidiary Versatel has been approached by several parties interested in its Belgian operations. Further announcements will be made, if appropriate."

The interest in Tele2-Versatel is just part of KPN's current overhaul of its domestic infrastructure, IT systems, and business portfolio. The carrier is undergoing a network transition to an all IP-based network, has selected IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) to help overhaul its billing and other IT systems, and is set to merge its international operations with global VOIP services player iBasis Inc. (Nasdaq: IBAS) now that the IP telephony firm has completed its financial restatements. (See KPN Lays Out IP Migration Plan, IBM Helps KPN, iBasis Restated on Nasdaq, and KPN International, iBasis to Merge.)

KPN has also just announced a $1 billion offer to acquire IT services firm Getronics NV , and has made a number of smaller, more strategic acquisitions on its home turf during the past year or so. (See KPN Plans $1B IT Acquisition, Tiscali Sells Dutch Unit, KPN Buys CSS, KPN Buys NewTel Essence, and KPN Buys Dutch ISP.)

However, the carrier's CEO, Ad Scheepbouwer, warns that KPN's M&A spree is not extending to a major mobile operator acquisition in France just yet. "In relation to ongoing speculation about KPN's intentions to make a pre-emptive bid for Bouygues Telecom , KPN wishes to state that no such bid is forthcoming."

He added: "We have just announced an intended bid for Getronics and are working on opportunities to strengthen our Belgian business by means of smaller fill-in acquisitions... This is not the time to entertain possibilities of a move to acquire Bouygues Telecom," stated the CEO.

Bouygues Telecom has nearly 9 million mobile customers in France.

KPN's share price increased by €0.38, about 3.5 percent, to €11.20 in morning trading on the Amsterdam exchange Tuesday.

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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