What’s up with… Ericsson, TalkTalk, EU telcos & Ukraine, Elon Musk & Twitter
- Ericsson exits Russia ‘indefinitely’
- EU telcos unite in support for Ukraine
- M&A speculation swirls around TalkTalk
- Musk slams Twitter, declines board seat
The latest impact on, and action by, the telecoms sector as a result of the ongoing war in Ukraine, the latest UK telco M&A speculation and further proof that it’s very hard to predict what Elon Musk might do or say next are the lead items in today’s news roundup.
Ericsson is taking a SEK900 million ($95 million) hit to pull out of Russia “indefinitely,” the Swedish vendor announced Monday morning. “Ericsson is engaging with customers and partners regarding the indefinite suspension of the affected business. The priority is to focus on the safety and well-being of Ericsson employees in Russia and they will be placed on paid leave,” the company noted in this statement. Ericsson had previously announced that it had suspended shipments to Russia, but has now taken action that will impact the operations and capabilities of Russian mobile operators, which will be feeling the impact of President Putin’s decision to wage war on Ukraine.
Still with Ukraine… As the crisis continues, mobile operators have increased their efforts to keep those affected by the situation connected. A total of 27 operators based in the European Union (EU) and Ukraine committed to reduce wholesale prices for roaming and other charges they impose on each other to enable international calls with Ukraine. The alleviation will initially last for three months and will help an estimated 4.2 million refugees who have fled to neighbouring countries Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Operators that have joined the initiative (led by the European Commission and the European Parliament) include Vodafone, Deutsche Telekom, Orange, Telefónica and Telenor. Virtual network association MVNO Europe and all three Ukrainian operators – namely Kyivstar, Vodafone Ukraine and lifecell – have also signed the joint statement. The movement is open to more operators to join at any time. Many operators globally have previously moved to provide free calls, SIM cards, Wi-Fi connectivity spots and other ways to aid people in getting in touch with relatives and friends impacted by the conflict. See more here.
UK fixed broadband service provider TalkTalk is at the centre of the latest UK M&A speculation, with both Vodafone and Sky (part of the Comcast empire) believed to be interested in a potential takeover, according to Sky News. The company, which has about 4 million customers, of which about 2.8 million are signed up to fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) of fibre-to-the-cabinet (FTTC) broadband services, is valued at about £3 billion by Chairman Charles Dunstone, who took the company private in late 2020 when the company was valued at about £2 billion including its debt (which currently stands at almost £1 billion). Vodafone has also been linked recently to potential interest in UK mobile operator Three, having stated publicly that it intends to flex its M&A muscle across Europe. PP Foresight founder Paolo Pescatore says a “marriage of convenience” between Vodafone and TalkTalk would “make sense,” as “strategically they complement each other – TalkTalk is stronger in fixed line, and Vodafone in mobile.” And both parties are in need of an enhanced service proposition: “Convergence remains an Achilles heel for both, as adoption among their respective bases has been lacklustre,” notes the analyst. “Despite previous failed attempts, both need to do more to sway customers to sign up to both mobile and fixed services,” and “while Vodafone is addressing its fixed line position through wholesale agreements, it is unclear whether a merger with Three UK is the silver bullet” it needs. “Ultimately scale is key and with this in mind a move to merge could make sense,” and “there are few strategic moves left in the UK.” But Vodafone will need to move quickly, reckons Pescatore, as it doesn’t want to lose further ground “as it has done in Italy and Spain,” where its recent consolidation efforts have come to nought (in Italy with Iliad and in Spain with MásMóvil). And what if Sky emerges as the most likely industrial partner for TalkTalk? “Any move by Sky will consolidate its position in fixed line and pose a greater threat to BT,” notes Pescatore.
Elon Musk’s plan to join the board of Twitter following his recent $2.89 billion investment in the social media giant didn’t last long. Twitter CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted over the weekend that Musk informed the company that he wouldn’t be taking his seat after all and in what could be regarded as a very restrained public note, Agrawal stated that he believes this is “for the best.” Musk, meanwhile, is stirring up trouble, noting (at around the same time on Saturday that he turned down the board seat) in this tweet that many major Twitter accounts have very few recent posts, and then posed the question, “Is Twitter dying?” That’s an interesting question for someone who just pumped almost $3 billion into the company: You could suggest he is a new breed of activist investor…
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