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Eurobites: Openreach sale talks baseless, says Jefferies

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Orange gets into AI; Telia sells TV rights; Iliad seeks damages from Telecom Italia.

  • There is no substance to recent reports about a partial sale of Openreach, BT's infrastructure business, according to analysts at Jefferies. Following a sell-side meeting with the UK operator, Jefferies issued a report saying a "minority stake sale could be part of a future solution" but scotching the rumors about an imminent divestment that would value Openreach at about £20 billion (US$24.5 billion), as first reported by the UK's Financial Times newspaper, citing sources close to the matter. BT recently canceled dividends and said it would seek another £2 billion ($2.5 billion) in cost savings to help fund the rollout of full-fiber networks to about 20 million properties by the mid-to-late 2020s. It has apparently told Jefferies that annual capital expenditure could rise to £4.6 billion ($5.6 billion) in the next two to three years, from about £3.9 billion ($4.8 billion) in its last fiscal year. BT's share price touched £5 ($6.12) in late 2015 but was trading at just £1.10 ($1.35) this morning in London.

  • France's Orange has talked up artificial intelligence as a means of reducing costs in network operations and other parts of its business. The operator says investments in the technology could slash about €20 million ($22 million) off the annual bill for maintenance of full-fiber networks, avoiding the need for about 280,000 "field interventions." At its Spanish operation it has also been using AI to figure out where investments in its mobile network are required. The systems could reduce capital expenditure in this part of the business by up to a fifth, it says.

  • Sweden's Telia said the European Commission had approved its licensing of standalone "over-the-top" video-streaming rights to Discovery Networks in Sweden and Finland. The move is linked to Telia's acquisition last November of content assets including TV4, C More and MTV. During the approvals process for that deal, Telia promised to offer a license to one other market player in each country. "Today's approval means that we can continue to move forward and realise the advantages for our customers of combining our leading mobile and fixed networks with the most successful commercial media house in the Nordics," said Alison Kirkby, Telia's CEO, in a statement.

  • Iliad Italia, the Italian subsidiary of French telecom company Iliad, is seeking damages from rival Telecom Italia of €71.4 million ($78.1 million) for alleged anticompetitive conduct, according to a statement included in Telecom Italia's latest set of financial results. Among other things, Iliad claims that Telecom Italia's Kena Mobile brand was intended to hinder its entry into the Italian phone market. Telecom Italia said it would "defend itself in full against the claims," further details of which were not provided.

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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