Mobile services

Eurobites: Orange Cleared of 'State Aid' Charge

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: Bharti Airtel sells towers in Africa; EE hit by ₤1 million Ofcom fine; France and China get it on.

  • Orange (NYSE: FTE) has been cleared by the General Court of the European Union of receiving state aid in 2002, when the French state proposed opening a credit line of €9 billion (US$10 billion) to the crisis-struck carrier. The General Court said that "the [European] Commission was wrong to classify the offer loan made to France Télécom as State aid and therefore annuls the Commission's decision."

  • Bharti Airtel Ltd. (Mumbai: BHARTIARTL) has raised more than US$1.3 billion from the sale of mobile tower assets in five countries in Africa and is still in negotiations to sell further assets in six more African countries. One of the completed deals is the sale of about 4,700 sites in Nigeria to American Tower Corp. (NYSE: AMT), a transaction valued at about $1 billion. The news comes as Orange, in outlining its new strategy for Africa, noted that selling tower assets is not part of its plan but that it's keen to share passive infrastructure with other operators. (See Orange Aims for 20% Sales Growth in Africa.)

  • UK mobile operator EE has been fined ₤1 million ($1.56 million) by Ofcom for failing to comply with the regulator's rules on handling customer complaints. Ofcom's investigation found that during the period under scrutiny, July 22, 2011 to April 8, 2014, EE "failed to send out written notifications to a number of customers that should have referenced their right to take their complaint to ADR [alternative dispute resolution] eight weeks after they first raised their complaint." It's not been a good week for EE -- on Tuesday Ofcom's latest quarterly survey of customer complaints showed the operator's fixed landline and broadband services generated more customer gripes than their rivals' offerings.

  • Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. has signed a $500 million, five-year deal with STMicroelectronics NV (NYSE: STM), the Franco/Italian chip maker, reports Reuters.

  • On a similar tack, the CEO of Huawei rival ZTE Corp. (Shenzhen: 000063; Hong Kong: 0763) has used a China-France business summit in Toulouse to express positivity about future collaborations between his company and French firms in areas that include next-generation networks and the wireless charging of electric vehicles.

  • BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA) is busy drawing our attention to a piece of independent research which, it says, shows that around 4,500 jobs and £186.1 million of economic benefit have been generated by the rollout of superfast broadband in the far-flung English county of Cornwall and the neighboring Isles of Scilly. The research was carried out by SERIO, an organization based at Plymouth University.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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