Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Hutchison and VimpelCom allocate Italian merger jobs; Deutsche Telekom bids for Slovakian stake; FreedomPop brings free offer to UK.
The CFO of France's Bouygues Telecom has denied that the operator has any plans to merge with any of its rivals, despite the pressure it is under in a fiercely competitive domestic market. Reuters reports that Philippe Marien said: "The strategy that we conduct ... is a stand-alone strategy which we think gave rather encouraging results in the first quarter." French conglomerate Bouygues, of which Bouygues Telecom forms a part, reported lower-than-expected losses in its first quarter, though they still deepened, to €194 million (US$218 million), compared with €178 million ($200 million) in the year-ago period. (See Iliad Plans Next Assault on French Rivals.)
Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (Hong Kong: 0013; Pink Sheets: HUWHY) and VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP) were reported by Bloomberg to have come to an agreement on senior management positions at a prospective merger of their Italian businesses. Citing sources familiar with the matter, Bloomberg reported that Maximo Ibarra, the CEO of VimpelCom's Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA , would remain in that role following a tie-up with Hutchison's 3 Italia , with Vincenzo Novari, the current CEO of 3, becoming a board member. The companies have yet to reach consensus on the financial and other terms of the deal. The news broke shortly before VimpelCom posted a 30% drop in sales and a 33% fall in EBITDA for the January-to-March quarter, due largely to economic and currency-related difficulties in Russia, its main market. On a brighter note, VimpelCom managed to trim its borrowings by $2.4 billion through asset sales in Algeria and Italy. The divestment of Wind could help to further reduce net debt, which stood at a whopping $17.6 billion in March -- nearly twice VimpelCom's value on the NASDAQ. Ouch. (See Hutchison's Wind of Change.)
Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT) has offered €900 million ($1.01 billion) for the 49% stake in Slovak Telekom being sold by the Slovakian government, reports Reuters. The German giant already owns 51% of Slovak Telecom. Speaking after Deutsche Telekom's earnings call, CEO Tim Höttges declined to comment on the report. The Slovakian government had initially planned to raise around €750 million ($848 million) from an IPO, but this was cancelled last week following the emergence of a "strategic investor" offering more.
FreedomPop , which has made its name in the US with SIM cards offering a monthly allowance of 500MB data, 500 voice minutes and 500 texts free of charge, is bringing its business model to the UK, reports the BBC. The free deal won't be as generous on this side of the Pond, however -- subscribers will get 200MB of data, 200 texts and 200 minutes of voice calls per month.
Net profits at Kuwaiti operator Zain Group slumped by 29.8%, to $139 million, in the first three months of the year because of unrest in Iraq and losses at its Saudi Arabian unit. The state-backed company suffered a 14.7% year-on-year fall in sales, to $942 million, despite growth in other key markets and an increase in revenues from data services. Commenting on the results, Scott Gegenheimer, Zain's CEO, said the security situation in Iraq -- where government forces are still battling insurgents from the ISIS terrorist organization -- was "significantly impacting the performance there and subsequently the Group's overall financials." Zain now serves about 46 million customers across the markets of Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Sudan.
France-IX is adding to its facilities in Marseille with a new PoP, which will open in the summer. The Internet exchange operator’s existing Marseille PoP, at the Interxion MRS1 data center, has already interconnected more than 20 networks and counts Amazon, Google, Microsoft and Seacom amongst its users. The new PoP, which will be located at Jaguar Network’s MRS01 data center, will offer more than 60 optical ports targeted at the growing demand for connectivity between Europe, Africa and the Middle East. France-IX also has nine PoPs in Paris.
UK mobile operator EE is bragging that it has notched up 10 million customers on 4G, which it says is the highest in Europe. Interestingly, it also says that one in four of its 4G customers use some form of mHealth monitoring, be it calorie-counting or blood-pressure tracking.
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading