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Eurobites: Virgin Adds 24K Customers in Q2

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Swisscom sells stake in Metroweb; MTN still feeling effects of Nigerian mega-fine; British gin joint blocks mobile signals.

  • Is it the Usain Bolt effect? On the day the Olympic Games kicks off in Rio, UK cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) -- which uses the Jamaican sprint superstar extensively, and no doubt expensively, in its advertising campaigns -- announced it had added 24,000 customers in the second quarter, compared to a loss of 12,000 in the same period a year ago. On the mobile front, Virgin registered 25,000 net additions in Q2, up from 7,000 last year. Revenue grew by 3% year-on -year in the quarter, to £1.19 billion (US$1.56 billion), though operating income decreased by 24% to £79 million ($103.9 million), a slump the company blamed primarily on increases in "related-party fees and allocations" and higher depreciation and amortization. In his earnings statement, CEO Tom Mockridge claimed that in areas that are covered by the Virgin network, more customers moved to the operator during the quarter than to BT, Sky, TalkTalk and Vodafone combined. Virgin Media has been part of the Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY) empire since 2013. (See Virgin Media Plots £3B Invasion of BT Turf and Liberty Global Gets Go-Ahead for Virgin Takeover.)

  • Swisscom AG (NYSE: SCM) has agreed to sell its 10.6% stake in Italian broadband provider Metroweb SpA to the main shareholder, Metroweb Italia SpA., for €80 million ($89 million). The deal, which is subject to approval by the Italian competition authorities, is due to close in the fall.

  • South Africa's MTN Group Ltd. saw EBITDA decline by 12.8% year-on-year to 29.3 billion South African Rand ($2.1 billion) in the first six months of the year on underlying revenues that edged up 1% to ZAR78.87 billion ($5.77 billion). MTN is still laboring under the load of a $3.9 billion fine that it was forced to pay the Nigerian government for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards. (See Eurobites: MTN Earnings Hit by Nigerian Fine.)

  • Over-the-top messaging services such as WhatsApp and Skype are getting twitchy about proposed new European Union telecom regulations that they say will make their operations in the region massively more complicated, forcing them to comply with laws designed for traditional telcos and deal with national regulators on an individual basis. According to EurActiv, Skype's services to dial phone numbers and receive calls will be regulated like calls between conventional operators, and OTT providers may also be forced to offer emergency calls free of charge.

  • Yesterday Eurobites explored the growing phenomenon of "digital detox," where people cut themselves off from the online world temporarily for the sake of their (and possibly others') sanity. Now news reaches us of The Gin Tub bar in the genteel English town of Hove, which has gone a step further by blocking out all mobile signals through the use of an all-encompassing Faraday cage, a wire-mesh affair that keeps those pesky radio waves at bay. Regulars at the establishment seem to view the communications opt-out as a real, erm, tonic. This audio clip on the BBC website explains all:

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

  • kq4ym 8/18/2016 | 1:25:49 PM
    Re: Mobile-blocking drunkenness I'm trying to imagine the Faraday cage reportedly put in the bar (or around it?) That would be quite a lot of metal and construction to acheive a real blocking of electronic signals. I would suppose the truth may be they used some electronic devices to more easily block signals although that should be pretty much illegal in most jurisdictions?
    PaulERainford 8/8/2016 | 4:51:29 AM
    Re: Mobile-blocking drunkenness Haven't you ever watched Cheers Eryn? In case of emergency, the caller rings the bartender, who then puts his hand over the mouthpiece and shouts out the appropriate drinker's name. And then about ten seconds later he/she cracks a couple of decent gags. Easy!
    ErynLeavens 8/5/2016 | 1:13:54 PM
    Mobile-blocking drunkenness This mobile signal-blocking bar is pretty great. I wonder what the patron response is though? I would be worried about missing an emergency if I couldn't be reached at all. If only calls could come through but you couldn't access the Internet. Some sort of halfway point.
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