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Eurobites: Cellnex eyes Telefónica's towers – report

  • Spanish towers company Cellnex expressed interest in buying assets from Telefónica after Spain's telecom incumbent said it might give up control of Telxius, its own towers subsidiary, to support growth. The comments, reported by Reuters, came at an investor conference this week where Tobias Martinez, Cellnex's CEO, said his ambition was to buy the towers "of all the telecom companies." His firm has emerged as one of the powerbrokers in the European infrastructure market and will have more than 100,000 towers across the region following a recent €10 billion ($11.9 billion) deal to acquire about 24,600 European towers from Hong Kong's CK Hutchison. Angel Vila, Telefónica's chief operating officer, told the conference that Telxius would grow faster if it were an independent company that did not have the same "restriction on leverage" as Telefónica. (See CK Hutchison to sell almost 25,000 towers to Cellnex and Three eyes €10B towers sale to Cellnex in risky move.)

  • A Belgian auction of spectrum for use with new 5G services will not happen until late 2021 or early 2022, reports Belgian newspaper De Tijd, citing comments by Petra De Sutter, a government minister. Although political obstacles have now been overcome, there are still various legal and practical steps that must take place before the 5G auction can start, said De Sutter. The frequency sale was previously delayed by disagreement between the federal government and regional authorities over the division of proceeds. Citizens have also raised concern that 5G could be a health risk because of radiation levels. Belgium now risks falling behind other countries in Western Europe that have already held 5G auctions. (See Town near Brussels flexes its muscles against 5G.)

  • Telia boss Allison Kirkby poured cold water on talk of merger activity in Sweden that would reduce the number of mobile operators from four to three, according to a Reuters report. As CEO of Tele2, Kirkby executed a sale of that operator's Dutch subsidiary to Deutsche Telekom, a deal that turned the Netherlands into a three-player mobile market. There was little chance of a repeat, she told an investor conference this week, because the weakest Swedish operator is stronger than Tele2 was in the Netherlands. The likelihood is that competition authorities would impose remedies that led to the creation of a fourth Swedish operator, she said. (See EC Signs Off Tele2, T-Mobile Merger in Netherlands.)

  • The proposed UK merger between cable giant Virgin Media and mobile operator O2 will be scrutinized by the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) after the European Commission (EC) transferred responsibility for investigating the deal to the UK body. The CMA made a formal request for ownership on October 8 in light of the UK's imminent departure from the European Union. The merger is not expected to face the same objections as an earlier proposal to combine O2 with Three UK, another mobile operator. That deal was opposed by European authorities on the grounds that it would eliminate a mobile operator and hurt competition. Liberty Global, Virgin Media's parent company, and Telefónica, O2's parent, believe the combination of their fixed and mobile businesses will create a stronger rival to BT, the UK telecom incumbent. (See O2 and Virgin Media to merge in £31.4B deal.)

  • Irish IT consulting firm Arkphire has been snapped up by Presidio, a North American IT company, in a deal worth roughly $142 million, according to ratings agency Moodys. Presidio said the move would give it a strategic hub and platform for expansion into Europe and Asia. The takeover is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, subject to regulatory approvals.

    — Iain Morris, International Editor, Light Reading


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