Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Iliad founder ups stake in Telecom Italia; Proximus has good Q3; Telefónica in 5G tie-up.
The Norwegian government has effectively fired the chairman of Telenor Group (Nasdaq: TELN), Svein Aaser, following the Nordic operator's entanglement with VimpelCom's allegedly corrupt dealings in Uzbekistan. Telenor still holds a 33% stake in VimpelCom Ltd. (NYSE: VIP), which it is currently trying to offload. The shenanigans in Uzbekistan had already claimed the scalp of former CEO Jon Fredrik Baksaas, who made way for Sigve Brekke. In a statement (translation here), Norway's Industry Minister, Monica Mæland, said that she no longer had confidence in Aaser, adding: "I have now received new information about the case. This is information that both Standing Committee on Scrutiny and Constitutional Affairs and I should have had earlier. I mean it's serious." For his part, Aaser confirmed that he was stepping down and said in a statement: "The Ministry and I have had different views on the handling of the VimpelCom issue." (See For Sale: Telenor's $2.4B Stake in VimpelCom.)
Xavier Niel, the buccaneering founder of French mobile operator Iliad (Euronext: ILD), has increased his stake in Telecom Italia (TIM) to 15.143%, reports Reuters. Niel is now the second-largest shareholder in the Italian incumbent behind Vivendi , which is owned by another French moneybags, Vincent Bollore. (See Iliad Plans Next Assault on French Rivals.)
Dubai's Oger Telecom has turned down an offer of 14 billion South African rand ($1 billion) from South Africa's Telkom SA Ltd. (NYSE/Johannesburg: TKG), the country's largest fixed-line operator, for its 75% stake in Cell C , a South African mobile operator, according to a report from Bloomberg, which cites sources familiar with the matter. With Oger said to be demanding as much as ZAR22 billion ($1.6 billion) for the stake, Telkom is apparently considering whether to increase its offer, although earlier reports suggested it was not prepared to spend more than ZAR18 billion ($1.3 billion).
Belgium's Proximus has raised its full-year profitability forecast after reporting year-on-year growth of 2.5% in sales, to €1.5 billion ($1.65 billion), and 3.3% in EBITDA, to €447 million ($492 million), during the third quarter. The operator attributed the strong performance to "solid revenue generation" at its fixed and mobile divisions, an increase in non-voice business at BICS , its international wholesale unit, and the success of cost-efficiency initiatives. BICS now expects EBITDA to grow by 4-5% this year, compared with a previous forecast of 3-5%.
Telefónica has teamed up with research outfit IMDEA Networks to open 5Tonic, which the pair describe as Spain's "first laboratory of 5G excellence." The lab will be located next to IMDEA Networks' headquarters on the outskirts of Madrid, and will have two main areas of focus, one dealing with virtualization software for 5G networks, and the other tackling 5G wireless systems.
UK police have made a second arrest relating to last week's cyber attack on broadband provider TalkTalk , reports the BBC. Like the first arrest, on Monday, the suspect is a teenager, in this case a 16-year-old boy from west London. Shares in TalkTalk fell heavily following the attack, which potentially compromised the personal details, including bank account numbers, of four million customers. (See Eurobites: TalkTalk Rocked by Cyber Attack and TalkTalk Plummets on Security Woes.)
— Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading