Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Vodafone's Aussie merger confirmed; Qatar's 'first 5G customer'; Bouygues on the up; UK releases more full-fiber cash.
South Africa's Mobile Telephone Networks (MTN) has been ordered by Nigeria's central bank to return $8.1 billion in dividends that the bank says was repatriated improperly from 2007 to 2015. As Bloomberg reports, the news sent MTN's share price plummeting by 22% to 83.89 rand on Wednesday morning, its lowest level since 2009. According to the report, the controversy is likely to put the mockers on MTN's planned initial public offering in Nigeria. The west African country, with a population of around 190 million, is MTN's biggest market in terms of customers (more than 55 million). (See Nigeria, Ghana Fuel MTN's Q1 Growth Ahead of IPOs.)
Vodafone Group plc (NYSE: VOD)'s Australian subsidiary, Vodafone Hutchison Australia, has agreed a A$15 billion ($10.92 billion) merger with TPG Telecom, the country's second-largest broadband provider. The hope is that the combined company, which would have 6 million mobile and nearly 2 million fixed line customers, will be able to mount a strong, "converged" challenge to rivals Telstra and Optus. For more details, see this story on our sister site, Telecoms.com.
Meanwhile, in Qatar, Vodafone says it has connected the first customer in the country to its embryonic 5G network. The customer in question is Gulf Bridge International (GBI), which has its home in the Qatar Science and Technology Park. GBI has taken delivery of 5G customer premises equipment that will provide it, says Vodafone, with broadband speeds in excess of 1 Gbit/s.
French operator Bouygues Telecom added 901,000 mobile customers in the first half of 2018, which helped drive its revenue up 7% year-on-year to €2.56 billion ($2.99 billion). At the end of June, it had 15.3 million mobile customers. Operating profit was up 31% to €239 million ($279 million), though that figure includes income related to the capital gain on the sale of sites to Cellnex.
The UK government has announced that its Local Full Fibre Networks (LFFN) Challenge Fund has entered its third and final stage, with £95 million ($123.6 million) now available to encourage private sector investment in FTTP broadband. For this final round of funding, local authorities must submit "informal" expressions of interest, and those deemed eligible for help will be contacted by the government's Department of Culture, Media & Sport to take things further. The first two rounds of the program released £105 million ($136.7 million) for selected full-fiber projects. For more details, see this story on telecoms.com.
If you're paying (from) $813 a night for your "deluxe king" room, you expect to get decent WiFi. Exponential-e Ltd. , the UK cloud and network provider, has installed a 10Gbit/s connection at The Ritz hotel in London for those guests who have made full use of their beverage-making facilities with complementary biscuits, have finished admiring the sheer swagginess of their drapes, and are now hungry for some cutting-edge bandwidth action within a mock-Georgian setting.
Switzerland's Nagra has published the findings of its latest 2018 Pay-TV Innovation Forum. Nuggets include: 84% of pay-TV execs surveyed expect competition for paid-for services to "increase dramatically" over the next five years; 90% believe that pay-TV providers will have to "innovate strongly" to remain relevant; and 47% believe that piracy will lead to greater pressures on the industry over the next five years.