Broadband services

Eurobites: Vivendi may sell 10% stake in Universal Music to Tencent

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Arqiva plotting break-up and sale; Ericsson, Elisa test private cellular; Italy's "5-star 5G hotel"; Detecon gets new boss; Accenture snaps up Northstream.

  • French media giant Vivendi said it was in preliminary talks with China's Tencent about the sale of a 10% stake in Universal Music Group. The deal would value the music business at €30 billion ($33.6 billion) and give Tencent the option of acquiring another 10% of the company within a year. In a joint statement, the companies said they were also considering areas where they could join forces, hinting at plans to promote Universal in the vast Chinese market, where Tencent has emerged as one of the biggest Internet companies in recent years. Vivendi said it would continue to pursue talks with other potential investors for the sale of an additional minority stake in Universal Music. Shares in the French company -- which owns telecom assets including a 24% stake in Telecom Italia -- opened 8.4% higher in Paris today on the news update.

  • Arqiva is planning to break up its business and sell the mobile masts part to another infrastructure investor, with Spanish towers company Cellnex identified as a possible buyer, according to a report by the UK's Telegraph newspaper. The company, which maintains a mobile masts business as well as TV and radio broadcasting assets, operates about 8,000 UK towers that rent space to mobile operators for basestation and other cellular equipment. With investors including Canada Pension Plan Investment Board and private equity group Macquarie, it made £683 million ($832 million) in sales and £364 million ($443 million) in pre-tax profit for the fiscal year that ended in June 2018. Europe's towers market is attracting the attention of private equity firms and infrastructure investors as the region's operators pool and divest assets to speed up 5G rollout and reduce their borrowings.

  • Swedish equipment giant Ericsson and Finnish mobile operator Elisa are testing a private mobile network for Elisa's enterprise customers, the companies announced in a statement. The technology is intended to give industrial companies and public safety agencies more control than they would enjoy on a public network, including greater security and capacity guarantees. Ericsson said it had already deployed private networks at various industrial sites, including utility companies, mines, ports, airports and factories. The systems have led to productivity improvements and operational efficiencies, it claimed.

  • In Italy, Telecom Italia's network infrastructure subsidiary Inwit has struck a deal with the Sina Hotels group to install an indoor '5G Ready' cellular system at the five-star Sina Bernini Bristol Hotel in Rome, creating what the partners are referring to as the country's first "5-star 5G hotel." A gimmick? Doesn't the hotel have really good WiFi? Inwit says the "new network infrastructure will enable guests to enjoy high-speed connections in their rooms and in the hotel's common spaces, taking full advantage of the digital services for business and tourism made possible by 5G technology." It then lists a bunch of functions that could be done with 4G, such as remote management of lights and air conditioning... even "opening doors with their smartphone." The mind boggles. I'll get interested when there is a 5G function for hotels that enables guests to mute the augmented reality lobby piano player...

  • Detecon, the management and technology consulting subsidiary of Germany's Deutsche Telekom, named Ralf Pichler its new CEO. Pichler joins Detecon from Boston Consulting Group, where he was a partner and associate director, and before that spent eight years in various management roles at Ericsson. He is a full-time replacement for Heinrich Arnold, who reportedly quit Detecon in February, since when it has been managed on an interim basis by CFO Sven Erdmann. Detecon operates as part of Deutsche Telekom's T-Systems IT business, whose CEO Adel Al-Salah said: "Ralf ideally combines expertise in three core areas that are substantially important for Detecon: Strong expertise in consulting for digital transformation; an outstanding background in the telecom industry, and broad experience in international markets."

  • Russian long-distance giant Rostelecom has agreed to buy Alliance Telecom, an Internet and TV services provider in Russia's Primorsky region, as it looks to boost its range of digital offerings. Alliance made 900 million Russian rubles ($13.8 million) in revenues last year and serves about 110,000 families in the Primorsky region as well as more than 6,000 B2B clients. "The acquisition will strengthen Rostelecom's position in the broadband Internet market in the Primorsky region," said Anna Shumeyko, Rostelecom's senior vice president and chief of staff of the presidential executive office, in a statement. "We are seeing a lot of opportunities to realize the synergy effects from operational cost optimization as well as from upselling the Alliance Telecom subscriber base with an expanded set of services, currently available to Rostelecom's clients."

  • Consulting giant Accenture has snapped up Swedish consulting firm Northstream in a move that will bolster its expertise in the telecom sector. Led by CEO Bengt Nordström, Northstream and its 30 employees will become a part of Accenture's communications, media and technology operating group. For more on this development, see this story on Telecoms.com, our sister site. And here's Nordström talking to Light Reading late last year about the 5G prospects for mobile operators:

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading

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