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Eurobites: South Africa's Vodacom Ups Black Shareholder Quotient

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: EE offers "smart number" technology; Comcast gets the EU green light on Sky bid; Vodafone Qatar virtualizes with Nokia; MegaFon completes on digital JV with Gazprombank.

  • In a bid to comply with a government initiative to increase the share of the company owned by blacks, South Africa's Vodacom Pty. Ltd. is proposing to sell as much as 6.35% of its stock to a group of investors that includes Royal Bafokeng Holdings, Thebe Investment, YeboYethu and company staff. As Bloomberg reports, such a transaction would mean that around 20% of Vodacom would be controlled by black investors.

  • Mobile operator EE claims it is the first UK network operator to offer "smart number" technology, meaning that its customers will be able to make and receive calls and texts using the same number across as many as five separate devices, including smartphones, laptops, tablets and smart watches. The service, which uses WiFi calling, only requires the customer's "primary" device to be on EE's network. Initially the service will be only be available to Apple devices, though Android users will be catered for in due course.

  • US cable giant Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) is set to get the all-clear from EU antitrust authorities for its proposed takeover of Sky , according to unnamed sources cited by a Reuters report. Comcast is up against 21st Century Fox , whose own bid for Sky is currently mired in various competition-related enquiries and consultations. (See UK Ruling Sparks Bidding War for Sky and Why Sky's the Limit for Comcast.)

  • Vodafone Qatar QSC is working with Nokia to deploy virtualized core network capabilities that are intended to help the operator meet the growing demands for voice and data in the country. Nokia Corp. (NYSE: NOK) began the deployment in November 2017, completing the first test call in March 2018. It hopes to be done and dusted sometime in 2019.

  • Russia's MegaFon has completed the creation of a joint venture with Gazprombank, called MF Technologies, to "develop digital services and implement projects in the digital economy."

  • Shares in Italian fiber network operator Retelit fell 4.6% on Friday following the news that Italy's new government had exercised its so-called "golden powers," which allow it to intervene in certain situations involving companies deemed to be of strategic national important. As Reuters reports, the coalition -- an uneasy combination of the 5-Star Movement and the far-right League parties -- told Retelit to safeguard its network and keep its management and security operations in Italy. Retelit's current board was appointed by SVM, a German activitst fund, on April 27.

  • UK cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) says it is putting the newly revamped Electronic Communications Code to the test by instigating legal proceedings against the local authority in Durham, a county in the north-east of England, over the issue of land access for the rollout of its fiber network there. Virgin says that In May it wrote to Durham County Council in a final attempt to gain free access to the land in question, which was not granted. The authority wants to charge Virgin, on a per-meter basis, for access to the grass verges that run alongside public pathways.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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