Eurobites: Mega-Fine Topples MTN CEO

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: UK government offers 10 Mbit/s for all; Telenor/VimpelCom latest; 3/O2 deadline pushed back.

  • The CEO of South Africa's Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) has been forced to step down in the wake of the $5.2 billion fine that was slapped on the operator by the Nigerian government for failing to disconnect unregistered SIM cards. As the BBC reports, Sifiso Dabengwa tendered his resignation with immediate effect, making way for MTN's non-executive chairman, Phuthuma Nhleko, to be appointed executive chairman on a temporary basis. In September, a former finance minister of the Nigerian government, Chief Olu Falae, was kidnapped and the kidnappers used an unregistered SIM card from MTN to demand the ransom -- it is thought that this lies behind the size of the fine imposed by Nigeria. (See Eurobites: MTN Shares Suspended After $5.2B Fine.)

  • The UK government has started work on the introduction of a broadband Universal Service Obligation (USO), with the aim of giving consumers and businesses the legal right to request a 10Mbit/s connection, no matter where they live in the country. Announcing the move, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "Just as our forebears effectively brought gas, electricity and water to all, we're going to bring fast broadband to every home and business that wants it." According to regulator Ofcom, 10 Mbit/s is the minimum speed needed to meet the demands of today's typical family and many small businesses.

  • TalkTalk , the UK broadband provider that was hit by a serious cyber attack late last month, is likely to scrap its shareholder dividend when it reveals its interim results on Wednesday, according to a Daily Telegraph report. Although the attack did not affect the data of as many customers as it first feared, analysts are still describing TalkTalk's financial position as potentially precarious, were the dividend to be paid, says the report. Meanwhile, a report in The Guardian says that senior TalkTalk staff were warned in 2013 that fraudsters were accessing customers' personal details, most likely through an internal data leak. (See TalkTalk Plummets on Security Woes and Eurobites: TalkTalk Rocked by Cyber Attack.)

  • Former VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP) CEO Jo Lunder is a free man for the time being -- a Norwegian court has ruled that he should be released from custody while police investigate corruption allegations surrounding him and his dealings in Uzbekistan, reports Reuters. (See Eurobites: Ex-VimpelCom Boss Held Over Uzbek Deals.)

  • In a related development, former Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN) CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas has been dropped as a strategic advisor to the company, and he notified the Telenor board that he will forgo his bonus payment for 2015. In an understatement, Baksaas said, "The recent developments in the ongoing investigations of VimpelCom make my role as strategic advisor to the Board in Telenor challenging." Baksaas resigned from Telenor in August.

  • The deadline for a decision by the European Union's antitrust authorities on Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (Hong Kong: 0013; Pink Sheets: HUWHY)'s proposed takeover of Telefónica UK Ltd. (O2) has been pushed back by 20 days, to April 18, 2016, reports Reuters. The authorities launched a full investigation into the proposed deal last month, with critics concerned that it could lead to price hikes for UK mobile customers. (See UK Needs O2/3 to Challenge BT/EE – Analyst and Telefónica Seals $15.2B O2 Sale to Hutchison.)

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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