What’s up with… Telia, Intel, Sigfox

TelecomTV Staff
By TelecomTV Staff

Jan 28, 2022

  • Telia sells stake in Swedish towers 
  • Intel cashes in on chip market trends 
  • IoT specialist Sigfox files for bankruptcy protection

The final news roundup of the week includes the latest tower asset sale, details of Intel’s best ever sales performance, and the demise of an IoT specialist.  

Having already sold a 49% stake in its towers business in Finland and Norway to investment firm Brookfield and pension fund Alecta, Telia has now sold a 49% stake in its Swedish towers business to the same pairing for SEK5.5 billion (€526 million), the operator revealed on Thursday evening. Telia has 3,800 tower sites across Sweden. “Telia has a clear strategy to develop and crystalize its digital infrastructure by joining forces with strategic partners that have a similar long-term view of the value of these assets, and bring unique operating and commercial expertise to Telia,” noted Allison Kirkby, Telia Company President and CEO.  “We are therefore delighted to expand our partnership with Brookfield and Alecta to also include our towers in Sweden. This transaction yet again clearly demonstrates the value of, and our leadership in, digital infrastructure. We firmly believe tower infrastructure is an essential foundation for the continued digitalization of the Nordics and Baltics and together with our partners we are committed to develop that digital infrastructure further.” Read more

Last year might have been a tricky one for many as they struggled to source the components they needed to manufacture their products, but for global chip giant Intel it was a record-breaking 12 months, as the company has just reported its best ever sales numbers. “Q4 represented a great finish to a great year. We exceeded top-line quarterly guidance by over $1 billion and delivered the best quarterly and full-year revenue in the company's history," noted CEO Pat Gelsinger. “Our disciplined focus on execution across technology development, manufacturing, and our traditional and emerging businesses is reflected in our results. We remain committed to driving long-term, sustainable growth as we relentlessly execute our IDM 2.0 strategy.” Intel’s fourth quarter revenues came in at $1.3 billion ahead of expectations at $20.5 billion, while full year revenues hit $79 billion, though it should be noted that Inte’s operating margins were lower compared with a year earlier. For further details and breakdown of the performance of each division, see this earnings release. The earnings report was issued only days after Intel announced plans to build the world’s largest chip fab in the US. Intel isn’t the only chip giant to have capitalized on the heightened demand for semiconductors in 2021: Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. (TSMC) also had a great year financially and announced major plant investment plans

French IoT service provider Sigfox has filed for bankruptcy protection and is seeking a buyer that can pump a new lease of life into the company, which has suffered badly during the pandemic years. The company, founded in 2010, had a decent idea – build an international low-power wide area network (LPWAN) dedicated to IoT connectivity: That idea resonated with big name investors such as Intel, NTT and SK Telecom and it raised more than $300 million in its lifetime, even though the strategy was built around a proprietary rather than standards-based or open technology. But it had an Achilles’ heel – co-founder and long-time CEO, Ludovic Le Moan, who was ejected by the board and replaced (too late) in early 2021. Under Le Moan’s leadership the company grew in size and reputation but was hampered by his belligerent managerial style, which resulted in a steady turnover of senior executives who were either fired or quit. And Le Moan didn’t like it when the trade media reported on what was really going on at the company: With connections at the very highest level of French politics and an air of being ‘untouchable’, he wasn’t used to being identified as anything other than a charismatic and successful businessman. For background on Sigfox’s history and current status (you won’t find any mention of the company’s bankruptcy proceedings on its own website), check out this article from TechCrunch by the consistently excellent Ingrid Lunden and this article by another top drawer journalist, Iain Morris at Light Reading, who for years communicated with inside sources at Sigfox and revealed what was really going on behind the shiny corporate shop window. Let’s hope a buyer is found, the business can continue and jobs can be saved. As for Le Moan, his LinkedIn profile suggests he is still CEO at Sigfox... 

PPF Telecom Group announced a rebranding move for its operations in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). From 1 March, its businesses in Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia, which have been operating under the Telenor name, will be rebranded as Yettel. Marek Slacik, Executive Director of PPF Telecom Group’s operations in CEE, explained the move will help the company “embrace our customers’ evolving expectations” and increase its value. He noted “a strong brand” was needed to meet the group’s vision to fulfil its business strategy which, he emphasised, is focused on “the best service experience” for customers, operating “state-of-the-art telecommunications networks” and achieving high levels of efficiency and profitability. The transition is expected to complete by the end of March. Read more about the rebranding here. PPF Telecom Group obtained full control over Telenor’s operations in the three markets, including Montenegro, in 2018 in a deal valued at €2.8 billion. It divested the Montenegro operation to Hungarian company 4iG Nyrt in October 2021. PPF Telecom Group’s portfolio also includes two brands in Czech Republic (O2 and CETIN). In mid-2020, the company split the retail and infrastructure operations in Bulgaria, Hungary and Serbia and shifted the network activities into a new unit, CETIN Group, to boost efficiency.

So long to China Unicom Americas! The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has revoked the company’s operating license in the US, a decision that comes into effect 60 days from the order adoption. The regulator moved to bar services provided by the Chinese company’s unit because it deems this will safeguard the telecoms infrastructure in the nation from potential security threats. See the full order by the FCC here.

Speaking of departures… SoftBank Group Corp. announced its Chief Operating Officer Marcelo Claure will step down after nine years at the company. While it noted in its statement that Claure’s resignation had been made in mutual agreement, Reuters and other media outlets reported the departure is linked to a dispute over pay with the company’s Chairman and CEO Masayoshi Son. Reports of Claure’s imminent departure and plans to launch his own investment company have been circulating for months. Claure also served as the CEO of SoftBank Group International since 2018: That role will be taken by Michel Combes, who will oversee the unit’s operating and investment portfolio. “Marcelo has made many contributions to SoftBank during his time here and we thank him for his dedication and wish him continued success in his future endeavours. I have great confidence in Michel Combes and the talented SoftBank team to continue with the great work we have underway at SBGI,” Son commented. During his tenure, Claure has led a number of projects, including the transformation at Sprint and its merger with T-Mobile, “the successful repositioning” of WeWork, the launch of a $5 billion Latin American venture capital fund and the Opportunity Fund to invest in underrepresented racial minorities. Read more in the company statement. Claure’s departure comes after other high-profile figures have left the company, including Deep Nishar and Jeff Housenbold from the company’s Vision Fund, and chief strategy head Katsunori Sago, who had been regarded as a potential successor to Son.

Mike Lynch, who founded and then sold Autonomy to HP in 2011 for $11 billion, has lost a fraud case linked to that corporate transaction, reports Sky News, and now faces the very real prospect of being deported to the US to face further fraud charges related to the deal. The decision over his extradition could be announced as you read this item, as the UK Home Secretary Priti Patle has to make a decision by midnight UK time tonight…

- The staff, TelecomTV

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