In today's EMEA regional roundup: Liberty Global sells eastern European satellite TV operations; 5G in Estonia; Vodafone needs a new auditor; taxing times in Finland for freelance Santas.
Cable giant Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) is to sell its DTH satellite TV operations in eastern Europe to the M7 Group, for €180 million ($205 million). Currently the Liberty DTH business operates in Hungary under the brand UPC Direct, in the Czech Republic and Slovakia under the brand freeSAT, and in Romania under the brand FocusSat. (See Liberty Global to Sell Eastern European DTH Units and Liberty Global's European Shrinkage.)
Ericsson AB (Nasdaq: ERIC) has been busy in Estonia, setting up the Baltic country's first 5G network in a collaboration with Telia Company and TalTech University. A live 4K video stream -- from Tallin's Christmas market -- was used to demonstrate the technology's potential. According to Telia, the network will serve as a testbed for industry partners and academia.
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) is looking for a new auditor to replace PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), the UK consultancy powerhouse with whom Vodafone has fallen out in the wake of the demise of phone retailer Phones 4u. As Shares Magazine reports, a legal action was filed by Phones 4u on December 18, naming Vodafone as one of a number of defendants in a legal dispute over the collapse of the retailer. PWC is also Phones 4u's auditor. Awkward. Prior to its collapse in 2014, Phones 4u had more than 700 outlets across the UK, employing 5,600 staff.
Sky is launching a new channel dedicated to US sport. Sky Sports USA, which will run from January 3 to February 5, will serve up action from the NBL and NBA to UK sports fans tired of soccer and cricket.
The worries about smart speakers' propensity for eavesdropping have been dialed up a notch with news of an incident in Germany that allowed a user of Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN)'s Alexa to listen in on more than a thousand recordings of a complete stranger. As Reuters reports, the user in question had for some reason asked to listen back to Alexa's recordings of his own activities, but when Amazon sent him the required link he found it also gave him access to 1,700 audio files recorded by another user.
OK, the telecom angle on this one is slight, but prepaid SIM cards are involved and the holiday season is upon us, so… tax authorities in Finland are clamping down on freelance Santa Clauses who, as you might expect, do pretty well at this time of the year, being hired by many Finnish families to dish out gifts and generally twinkle on Christmas Eve. As YLE reports, Finland's tax administration issued a reminder earlier this month to those bad Santas who prefer to keep their earnings off the books. The president of the country's Santa Claus Association, Mika Väkeväinen, told YLE: "Those who want to avoid paying taxes often work anonymously, they answer their telephones with the greeting 'Santa Claus' and arrange their appointments using prepaid SIM cards or use anonymous email addresses."
Totally busted, tax-wise
This is the last Eurobites of 2018. Happy holidays, and see you all in the new year.
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading