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Eurobites: Telco Oligarch Has His Assets Frozen

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Amazon enters the fray for English TV soccer rights; Norway's comms minister defends government record on broadband funding.

  • Ukraine's richest man, who agreed to buy former state-owned fixed-line operator JSC Ukrtelecom in 2013 from Raga for $860 million, has had $820 million of his assets frozen for failing to come up with the full purchase price, according to a Financial Times report (subscription required). Rinat Akhmetov is said by Forbes to be worth $4.6 billion, with commercial interests ranging from coal to telecom, but Raga says Akhmetov paid $100 million upfront but nothing since. Ukraine's government is seeking to re-nationalize Ukrtelecom, on the grounds that obligations relating to the privatization have not been met.

  • You heard (speculation about) it here first, but now Bloomberg reports that Amazon.com Inc. (Nasdaq: AMZN) plans to bid for the rights to English Premier League soccer in the UK's forthcoming auction. This is a move that will send shivers down the spines of both Sky and BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), which have together spent a small fortune on securing top-notch soccer coverage over the past few seasons. Amazon has already been buying up the rights to some blue-chip tennis and American football content, so this move into soccer is a natural progression. Possibly anticipating Amazon's encroachment onto their turf, Sky and BT have recently reached something of a rapprochement over soccer coverage, agreeing to exchange TV sports channels. (See BT Splashes $1.5B to Beat Sky in Latest Soccer Rights Battle.)

  • Norway's Minister for Transport and Communication, Ketil Solvik-Olsen, has been defending his government's record on broadband funding in the face of criticism from the opposition Centre Party. As Telecompaper reports, Solvik-Olsen maintains that almost 50% more funding has been set aside for digital infrastructure in the country's 2018 budget, and that his party's record on broadband coverage in Norway's more remote regions is far superior than that of the Centre Party.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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