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Wholesale/transport services

Eurobites: O2 Czech Republic May Hive Off Networks

Also in today's EMEA regional roundup: 'Grexit' threatens OTE; Portugal Telecom in fraud probe; O2 Czech Republic management changes; Wiko launches 4G phone in Kenya.

  • Fixed line and mobile operator O2 Czech Republic, formerly a part of the Telefónica SA (NYSE: TEF) empire but now controlled by Czech investment group PPF, has completed a feasibility study into hiving off its infrastructure business and running it separately from retail operations. The operator said the new entity would provide wholesale services to other players and claimed to have already drawn up plans for the separation. This would be a fairly radical step for an incumbent in the Central and Eastern European region, but it resembles moves made by operators elsewhere, including the UK's BT Group plc (NYSE: BT; London: BTA), which did the splits in 2005 under pressure from regulatory authority Ofcom . (See BT Unveils New Access Biz.)

  • Still with O2 Czech Republic... The operator has named Tomáš Budník as its new chairman and Tomáš Kouřil as vice-chairman. Budník is also the operator's CEO -- having taken over this role from Luis Malvido in June 2014 -- while Kouřil has functioned as CFO since the same date. Malvido had continued to serve as chairman until December last year, when O2 announced his directorship would expire at the end of the year.

  • A 'Grexit' (Greek exit) from the euro would pile pressure on to Greek incumbent operator OTE S.A. , as well as parent company Deutsche Telekom AG (NYSE: DT), by driving up borrowing costs, according to new analysis from Moody’s Investors Service and Robeco Groep NV, reports Bloomberg. While generating revenues in a weak new currency, OTE would have to pay off debts denominated in the stronger euro, which would effectively increase its debt load. OTE has managed to slash debts during the past couple of years and Deutsche Telekom, which owns 40% of OTE, appears confident the Greek player can fund itself, according to the Bloomberg report.

  • Portugal Telecom SGPS SA (NYSE: PT) is under investigation for alleged fraud, according to this Reuters report. The investigation, which is being carried out by Portugal's prosecutor general, is related to the operator's financial investments. The probe will likely raise a few Gallic eyebrows at Altice SA , the French company that is currently in the process of acquiring Portugal Telecom from its current owner, Brazil's Telemar Norte Leste S.A. (Oi) , in a deal valued at €7.4 billion (US$8.8 billion). (See Brazil's Oi Forecasts a Brighter 2015 and Altice in Exclusive Talks to Buy Portugal Telecom.)

  • Phone manufacturer Wiko Mobile is set to launch a new 4G handset in Kenya next month, according to Business Daily. Wiko entered the Kenyan market in September last year with a range of low-cost devices and has formed partnerships with some 200 distributors in the country, according to the report. While headquartered in Marseille, France, Wiko is majority owned by China’s Tinno Mobile Technology and its products are manufactured in the Chinese city of Shenzhen.

    — Iain Morris, News Editor, Light Reading

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