Eurobites: Vodafone Squashes M&A Speculation

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: data privacy regulation debate; UK introduces Diverted Profits Tax; Finland cables up for data center market.

  • As these fellers would say, "calm down, calm down." Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD) CEO Vittorio Colao has tried to apply the brakes to the M&A rumor mill by denying that his company has any plans for a takeover of Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY), reports the Daily Telegraph. According to the report, Colao used a "marathon meeting" with shareholders to dampen down speculation that such a move was on the cards. Nick Delfas, a Redburn analyst present at the meeting, said in a note to clients that Colao only said he would look at an acquisition of Liberty's German network if owner John Malone wanted to sell, but that this innocuous statement has been blown out of all proportion. Shares in Vodafone fell 3% on Monday in the wake of speculation about the group's cable acquisition ambitions. (See Eurobites: Vodafone Chews Over Liberty Merger.)

  • Who is going to rule on matters of data privacy in Europe? US Internet giants such as Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) and Facebook would like to deal with a single body, preferably in the country where they have their European headquarters, but, according to Bloomberg, their hopes may be dashed. EU justice ministers appear to have dropped proposals for a "one-stop-shop" data privacy watchdog, instead offering a compromise plan that would allow nations to veto decisions on data privacy matters taken by the lead authority. (See Euronews: Prism Prompts EU Data Rethink.)

  • Those same US Internet giants might soon have another problem on their plates: a promised UK government "get tough" policy on the tendency of Google et al to use elaborate, possibly dubious, financial structures to avoid paying taxes. As the BBC reports, Chancellor George Osborne used his Autumn Statement to announce the introduction of a 25% Diverted Profits Tax on profits generated by multinationals from economic activity in the UK which "they then artificially shift out of the country." But defining what exactly constitutes a "diverted profit" might be a bit of a head-scratcher for the lawyers.

  • Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) and HP Inc. (NYSE: HPQ) have strengthened their long-standing global partnership, with HP now including AlcaLu's IP and optical systems in its portfolio. (See Alcatel-Lucent, HP Strengthen Alliance.)

  • Finland has begun the construction of subsea cable to Germany in a bid to attract more data center operators to its server-cooling climate, reports Bloomberg. Alcatel-Lucent (NYSE: ALU) is supplying its technology and knowhow to the $74 million project, which is due to be completed in early 2016.

  • UK pay-TV operator Sky has agreed to sell a controlling stake in its online betting business, Sky Bet, to CVC Capital Partners for ₤800 million ($1.2 billion), allowing it to better focus on "the significant opportunity for growth in pay TV across the five markets in which it now operates." Sky will retain a 20% stake in Sky Bet and ongoing board representation.

  • Russian device maker YotaPhone is in talks to raise $100 million to fund the global rollout of a smartphone that doubles as an e-reader, using so-called "e-ink," reports the Financial Times (subscription required). One of the device's main selling points will be a longer-than-average battery life, as the e-ink screen on the rear of the phone uses less energy than a conventional smartphone screen, says the vendor.

  • Scotland's Highlands & Islands region is a step closer to much improved connectivity following the completion of a subsea project that has seen the laying of 250 miles of fiber in and around this remote and spectacular corner of the UK. French specialist cable laying firm Orange Marine carried out the contract for BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), using its 14,000-tonne Rene Descartes ship, complete with submersible plow. Onshore activity to connect the cables to BT's terrestrial network has been carried out by A-2-Sea Solutions, a company based in the southern English county of Romsey. The first island communities to benefit from the new subsea links will gain access to downlink speeds of up to 80 Mbit/s in the spring.

  • Infinera Corp. (Nasdaq: INFN) has teamed up with Telefónica UK Ltd. to deploy Infinera's DTN-X packet optical transport networking platform across Network Rail's railway infrastructure in the UK. Network Rail manages more than 16,000km of fiber across the UK rail system. (See Network Rail Deploys Infinera Across UK.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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