Also on today's EMEA regional roundup: investors eye Orange's Kenyan real estate; Tele2 takes its partners for the IoT; UK promises tax concession for tech startups.
UK cable operator Virgin Media Inc. (Nasdaq: VMED) claims to have stolen a march over its main rivals with the launch this week of 200Mbit/s broadband services, under the "Vivid" brand. Previously, the top speed offered by the Liberty Global Inc. (Nasdaq: LBTY)-owned operator was 152 Mbit/s. The UK's third-biggest broadband network by customer numbers, Virgin announced earlier this year that it would spend £3 billion (US$4.75 billion) on extending its superfast broadband network to another 4 million UK homes and businesses by 2020. The Virgin network is currently available to around 12.6 million homes. (See Virgin Media Kickstarts $4.75B UK Upgrade.)
Potential investors looking at taking over Orange (NYSE: FTE)'s 70% stake in Telkom Kenya are mainly attracted by the company's real estate assets, estimated at 13 billion Kenyan shillings ($123 million), according to a Business Daily report. BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) and private equity firm Helios are two of those who have expressed an interest in the stake, which Orange has failed to sell to a group of Nigerian investors after negotiations ran into the sand.
Nordic mobile operator Tele2 AB (Nasdaq: TLTO) is looking to bolster its presence in the M2M/Internet of Things sector with a number of new partnerships. Included on the list are Redsalt (a Dutch system integrator), Giant Leap Technologies (also an SI), MobileTrack (a Dutch IoT specialist); MultiCap (a Belgian distributor), Service Cruiser (an outsourcing partner) and AVIC (a Dutch IoT specialist).
The European Commission is preparing to revise the Value-Added Tax (VAT) regime for tech startups in the EU, reports the Daily Telegraph, after the British government claimed the existing tax system was punishing UK entrepreneurs in the sector. Among other things, the revised regime would do away with the £81,000 ($123,000) threshold, above which companies have to account for VAT.
Technology from France's Thomson Video Networks has been chosen for a pilot in Ivory Coast that is intended to pave the way for the country's transition from analog to to digital terrestrial television (DTT). Under the terms of an agreement with the ITU, Ivory Coast must make the switch by June 2015 for UHF frequencies and June 2020 for VHF frequencies.