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Eurobites: Russian Billionaire Pumps $50M Into FreedomPop

Paul Rainford
8/30/2016

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: EU wants Ireland to wrestle $13 billion in back taxes off Apple; Iliad in talks with Vivendi over Canal+ deal; 4G in Egypt.

  • LetterOne, the investment vehicle for Russian billionaire Mikhail Fridman that holds substantial stakes in VimpelCom, Turkcell and Uber, is to inject $50 million into FreedomPop , the US startup that offers (initially) free mobile contracts to its customers. Having launched initially in the US, FreedomPop has been expanding into Europe and is keen to launch in further markets. As the Financial Times reports (subscription required), the cash injection comes hard on the heels of LetterOne's $200 million investment in Uber earlier this year. LetterOne says it is constantly on the look-out for "mobile apps and digital services that complement its existing networks," with a view to applying new technology to "transform traditional business practices." (See MVNO Free Europe: FreedomPop Adds $50M, Thinks Global and this report on our sister site, Telecoms.com.)

  • The European Commission has ruled that the Irish government gave Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) illegal tax benefits to the tune of €13 billion ($14.5 billion), and that it must now recover the missing money from the technology giant. Under EU rules, the Commission says, the tax benefits constitute illegal state aid. According to Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, Apple was effectively allowed to pay a corporate tax rate of just 1% in 2003, tapering down to a rate of 0.005% in 2014. The decision marks the culmination of an investigation that began in June 2014. Not surprisingly, Ireland's finance minister, Michael Noonan, "disagrees profoundly" with the decision and will be seeking cabinet approval to appeal, as the BBC reports. (See Eurobites: EU Wants Tax Transparency From Tech Titans, Eurobites: EC to Charge Apple With Illegal Tax Deals in Ireland and this report on Telecoms.com.)

  • French operator Iliad (Euronext: ILD) is in talks with Vivendi 's pay-TV unit Canal+ about potential "distribution offers," according to a Reuters report citing French daily Les Echos. Last week Vivendi announced it was embarking on a €300 million ($334 million) cost-cutting plan at the loss-making TV unit.

  • Middle East operators Saudi Telecom Co. (STC) and Lebara B.V. are heading to Egypt this week to discuss the possibility of obtaining a 4G license from the authorities there, according to a Reuters report.

  • Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd. (Nasdaq: GILT), which provides satellite and fiber-based connectivity in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, is expanding its operations in Ghana. To this end, it has updated its point-of-presence in Accra, the country's capital, which is now using terrestrial metro fiber to provide a 1-10Gbit/s service to existing and new customers. (See Gilat Satcom Expands Fiber Metro Services in Ghana.)

  • Internet peering service provider France-IX Services has teamed up with wholesale service provider BICS to offer network operators in Africa and the Middle East that peer on the France-IX Marseille or Paris Internet Exchanges an easy way to peer remotely to the other exchange. The new relationship also provides an opportunity for operators based in the Paris or Marseille exchanges to extend their reach into Africa and the Middle East markets.

  • Sky Deutschland Fernsehen GmbH & Co. KG has launched a new OTT platform for those who don't want to commit to a subscription, Broadband TV News reports. The service, Sky Ticket, replaces Sky Online, and provides OTT access to Bundesliga soccer matches, amongst other content.

  • Greek ISP Forthnet has seen first-half turnover fall from €182.8 million ($204 million) a year ago to €165.5 million ($184.90 million) this time around, with EBITA down slightly to €26.8 million ($29.9 million), Reuters reports.

    — Paul Rainford, Assistant Editor, Europe, Light Reading

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    kq4ym
    kq4ym
    9/12/2016 | 12:27:21 PM
    Re: So there's some ready-made FreedomPop partners
    It's interesting to speculate what the investor is up to with the report he "is to inject $50 million into FreedomPop." It seems to be a popular service here and with the growing European market it will be interesting to watch. But more interesting perhaps will be watching Ireland and Apple's taxes.
    Ray@LR
    [email protected]
    8/30/2016 | 12:00:25 PM
    So there's some ready-made FreedomPop partners
    Would it be safe to assume that FreedomPop is going to secure Vimpelcom and Turkcell as international partners?

    I think so...

    That is quite the endorsement for the FreedomPop model. 
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