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Eurobites: Telia Coughs Up $965M to Exit Uzbek Nightmare

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: EU prepares for taxation clampdown on digital giants; EE offers Enhanced HD Voice; DT bets on Hybrid Brain.

  • Nordic operator Telia Company has finally reached a settlement with the US, Dutch and Swedish authorities relating to investigations into corrupt practices at its Uzbekistan subsidiary. In total, Telia will pay US$965 million, which sounds huge but actually represents a discount on the $1.4 billion fine originally imposed in 2016. In a related move, the Swedish Prosecution Authority has also decided to prosecute a number of former Telia employees. (See Eurobites: Uzbek Fine Takes Toll on Telia and TeliaSonera to Quit Eurasia, Focus on Europe.)

  • The European Commission is setting the stage for what it hopes will be a complete overhaul of the way in which companies that operate across borders in the digital economy -- the likes of Amazon and Google, for example -- are taxed. In a statement, the Commission said it was planning a "fundamental reform of international tax rules, which would ensure a better link between how value is created and where it is taxed." It also says that if insufficient progress is made on the matter internationally, the EU should "implement its own solutions." The Commission believes that the effective tax rate of digital companies in the EU is around half that of traditional companies -- "and often much less." (See Eurobites: EU Wants Tax Transparency From Tech Titans.)

  • UK mobile operator EE has upgraded its network to allow it to support Enhanced HD Voice on VoLTE and WiFi calling. The operator, which is owned by BT, claims to be the first in the UK to offer the service. The first smartphones to benefit from Enhanced HD Voice on EE's network will be the Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus, though other EE smartphones will get the treatment in due course.

  • The latest investment by Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT)'s hub:raum startup incubator is going to Twyla, which is described as a "Hybrid Brain" chatbot offering that automates and speeds up a company's online or "messaged" customer support. According to DT, the Hybrid Brain works by "intelligently switching between machine learning and rule-based models and by dynamically converting rule-based structures into machine learning classifications once the TwylaBot has achieved a statistical confidence in what it wants to say to a user." It may be that you need a Hybrid Brain to fully understand that sentence.

  • And still in the startup sphere, Belgian's Proximus has become a shareholder in Co.Station, an incubator that has also attracted funding from BNP Paribas Fortis, SD Worx and USG.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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