BT is in talks to sell a stake in its network to company pensioners, according to a report in the Sunday Telegraph. The move could relieve some of the financial pressure on the UK operator, whose share price has dropped to just £1.07 ($1.40) in London – less than a quarter of its value in early 2016 – amid business and economic challenges. Under a deal, the pension scheme, one of the largest in the UK, would own part of an asset that bankers reportedly value at about £20 billion ($26.2 billion), nearly twice BT's current market capitalization of £10.6 billion ($13.9 billion). BT expects to invest about £12 billion ($15.7 billion) in the next few years as it continues rolling out full-fiber networks to around 20 million UK homes. It is also upgrading its mobile networks to higher-speed 5G technology, and will need to replace equipment supplied by Huawei at an estimated cost of £500 million ($654 million) after the government recently decided to ban the Chinese vendor beyond 2027. Having already scrapped dividend payments, BT reported an 11% fall in profit and a 7% drop in sales for its recent first quarter, compared with the same period of 2019. (See Openreach may soon practice social distancing from BT.)
Sticking with BT, the EE mobile part of the company has just completed the buildout of its 500th site for the country's new Emergency Services Network (ESN). An upgrade to the outdated systems currently in use, the 4G-based ESN is intended to provide a dedicated mobile communications service for about 300,000 emergency service workers across the UK. The latest site is in Glencoe in Scotland, and it will provide connectivity for an area covering 65 square kilometers based on spectrum in the 800MHz band, said EE in a statement. EE said recent improvements to the 19,000 4G sites it maintains across the UK would also support the ESN. (See UK May Be Stuck With Old Public Safety Network Till 2023.)
Austria's telecom regulator RTR has said the country's second 5G auction will soon receive the go-ahead, and is expected to finish by the end of September at the latest. The country, which has already awarded some 5G spectrum, is to sell frequencies in the 700MHz, 2100MHz and 1500MHz bands, allowing operators to extend the coverage of their 5G networks. "We learned just how important it is to have a high-performance infrastructure in the course of the lockdown," said Klaus Steinmaurer, the head of RTR. "A faster 5G expansion is therefore an important investment in the future." (See 5G auctions delayed across Europe due to COVID-19.)
A consortium that includes Telecom Italia, Spain's Telefónica and América Móvil is now in exclusive talks to buy mobile assets from Oi, the Brazilian operator announced in a statement. Following any deal, the consortium members would have the right to "top other proposals" that Oi might subsequently receive. Talks will take place until August 11 but can be extended for another four days. The consortium has reportedly offered about $3 billion for the mobile assets. (See Trio make binding offer for Oi mobile biz.)
German cable operator Tele Columbus has renewed a €50 million ($59 million) credit facility with Goldman Sachs and ING. In May, the company said it was expecting full-year revenues of between €465 million ($547 million) and €475 million ($559 million), after recording sales of €470 million ($553 million) last year. Tele Columbus provided cable services to about 3.4 million German households at the end of March.
— Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading