Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Virgin Media stands out for Liberty Global; Sigfox accentuates the positive; fiber's socio-economic benefits.
Isn't the digital health sector supposed to be, erm, healthy? It would appear not. Less than two years ago Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) shelled out €170 million (US$212 million) for Withings, a France-based specialist in digital health products and services. Now, however, it seems the Finnish giant has got cold feet over its future in this sector, announcing today that it has initiated a "review of strategic options" for its digital health business, hinting that a sale could be on the cards. This is especially perplexing considering that only four months ago Nokia announced that it was rowing back on investments in virtual reality and focusing instead on building up its digital health business. Nokia stresses that its patents, "brand partnerships" and technology licensing units, which fall within the same part of the company as its digital health offerings -- Nokia Technologies -- do not come under the scope of this review. (See Eurobites: Reality Bites for Nokia's VR Dreams and Nokia to Acquire Withings for €170M.)
UK and Ireland cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) was the European highlight in Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY)'s fourth-quarter results, recording year-on-year rebased revenue growth of 4.4%, to $1.71 billion. However, RGU (revenue-generating unit) additions in the fourth quarter were down on the year-earlier period, to 8,000, reflecting, says Virgin, "improved performance in new build areas [which] was offset by reduced growth in our existing footprint." RGU additions for the full year were up 34%, powered by growth in Virgin's "Project Lightning" network rollout. Virgin now claims 5.9 million cable customers and 3.1 million mobile subscribers.
Modest fourth-quarter revenue growth was also recorded at Liberty's Belgian and German operations, though its Switzerland/Austria business has remained flat as a result of lower ARPU and the usual competitive pressures.
The CEO of France's Sigfox , Ludovic Le Moan, has been telling Reuters that despite Sigfox missing its revenue target last year he still feels optimistic about its prospects and hopes that Sigfox will break even in the fourth quarter of this year, possibly prompting a stock market listing. As chronicled at length on Light Reading, Sigfox has sailed into choppy waters of late, suffering an exodus of senior executives and falling behind schedule on its network rollout in the US. (See French Toast? Sigfox on Skid Row.)
The FTTH Council Europe has released the findings of a new study that seeks to explore the socio-economic benefits of fiber. Not surprisingly, given its sponsor, the study makes a strong case for fiber, though it probably helps that the two countries selected for the study were Sweden and the Netherlands, are both known for their relatively progressive thinking on all matters FTTH. Among other tidbits, the study found that, on average, Swedish FTTH broadband subscribers perform 11% more activities online than subscribers with other Internet access technologies, while farmers in the Netherlands like fiber so much they're even digging their own trenches and laying it themselves. For more fun fiber facts, see the full report here.
In what could be seen as either a brave or a foolish move, the UK government has stuck its head above the proverbial parapet and publicly accused the Russian military of being behind the NotPetya ransomware attack on Ukraine last summer, the BBC reports. The attack hit sales of several UK-based companies in the region. Russia, needless to say, denies responsibility.
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading