What’s up with… Singtel, Airtel Africa, Equinix

  • Singtel deflects Optus sale speculation
  • Airtel Africa mulls IPO for its mobile money unit 
  • Equinix poaches new CEO from Google Cloud

In today’s industry news roundup: Singtel has carefully denied reports of a AUS$16bn sale of its Australian operator subsidiary Optus; Airtel Africa is reportedly working towards a $4bn IPO of its mobile money unit; Google Cloud’s Adaire Fox-Martin will be the next CEO at datacentre giant Equinix; and much more!

Singtel has shrugged off media speculation that it was looking to offload its Australian operation Optus to Canadian investment management company Brookfield for AUS$16bn (US$10.6bn). Addressing a report from the Australian Financial Review that suggested Singtel was in advanced talks, the Singaporean telco group stated: “There is no impending deal to offload Optus for the said sum, as reported. Optus remains an integral and strategic part of the Singtel Group and we are committed to Australia for the long term.” Singtel pointed out that its current focus is on “improving network resilience and conducting a CEO search” for Optus. This clarification comes at a turbulent time for Singtel’s Australian subsidiary, which suffered a massive outage in November 2023, leading to the departure of then-CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin and, more recently, the reported exit of managing director of networks, Lambo Kanagaratnam. Still, Singtel added that it regularly conducts “strategic reviews of our portfolio to optimise the value of our assets and businesses and will explore all options to maximise shareholder value”. It further warned shareholders and potential investors to be cautious in their review of any media reports relating to Optus ahead of definitive announcements when dealing with shares of the company. This clarification comes shortly after Singtel sold a 0.8% stake in Bharti Airtel to US-based investment firm GQG Partners, unlocking an estimated 950m Singaporean dollars (equal to around US$713m) from the move.

Airtel Africa is mulling an IPO for its mobile money arm that could value it at more than $4bn, according to a Bloomberg report. The telco is said to be considering listing the mobile money unit as soon as this year, and has already held discussions with potential advisers for the move. While the company hasn’t yet decided where to issue the IPO, executives are reportedly considering stock exchanges in the United Arab Emirates, London and Europe, among others. Airtel’s mobile money business is considered to be its fastest-growing unit, with a 19.5% increase in customers to 37.5 million in the nine-month period ending 31 December 2023. The unit’s revenues grew by 31.8% year on year in constant currency in the period, but the company has not disclosed specific figures. In 2021, Airtel Africa scored a $200m investment from TPG and another $100m investment from Mastercard.

Global datacentre operator Equinix has poached a Google executive to be its next president and CEO. Adaire Fox-Martin, who is currently go-to-market president [honest!] at Google Cloud will take over from Charles Meyers before the end of June; Meyers will become executive chairman, while current executive chairman Peter Van Camp will become special advisor to the board. “Digital transformation is reshaping the basis of competition for industries across the globe, and the rapid adoption of AI is accelerating that dynamic,” noted Meyers. “These pivotal shifts have created an extraordinary demand environment for digital infrastructure, and our distinctive advantages create an exceptional long-term opportunity for Equinix. I am confident that Adaire’s capabilities and experience will be deeply additive to our team and our culture, helping us meet the evolving needs of our customers, fuel our growth and unlock the extraordinary power of Platform Equinix. I am grateful to our board for their support of my desired transition timeline, and excited to assume the executive chairman role and actively support Adaire as she leverages her tremendous global experience to extend and expand our market leadership.” Fox-Martin has been in the tech sector for more than 25 years: In addition to her time at Google, she has also held senior positions at SAP and Oracle. Read more

Satellite-to-smartphone network operator AST SpaceMobile says it now has agreements with 40 telcos worldwide, including Vodafone Group, Rakuten Mobile, AT&T, Bell Canada, Orange, Telefonica, Telecom Italia (TIM), STC (Saudi Telecom Company), MTN, Zain KSA, Etisalat, Indosat Ooredoo Hutchison, Telkomsel, Smart Communications, Globe Telecom, Millicom, Smartfren, Telecom Argentina, Telstra, Africell and Liberty Latin America. The roll call of mobile network operator partners was included in an announcement about its updated filings with the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and US regulator the FCC. Read more

Orange and MásMóvil have reportedly cleared the path for their planned merger in Spain, after receiving approval from the Spanish government. Citing José Luis Escrivá, Spain’s Minister of Digital Transformation and Civil Service, Reuters reported that this latest consent is the last formal step before the merger closes. Last month, the European Commission granted Orange and MásMóvil permission to combine their Spanish operations, under certain conditions. According to the report, Escrivá has further stated that there will be an accompanying industrial plan for the resulting combined company that is “truly ambitious”. Orange has previously said that it expects the deal to be finalised by the end of the first quarter 2024.

ZainTech, the digital solutions unit of Kuwaiti telco group Zain, has joined forces with Malaysian diversified infrastructure developer UEM Edgenta to integrate digital solutions with infrastructure management, for operational efficiency improvements in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East region. According to Zain, the partnership will allow the pair to innovate in the area of facilities management and to provide “an exceptional digital experience for end users”. The collaboration will see Zain and UEM Edgenta use digital twin and drone technologies to improve operational efficiency and achieve “a seamless digital experience” in the facilities management sector across the region. “We are in the era of smart cities, which are driven by connectivity, automation, and computational digital capabilities. Our clients, which operate across sectors, continue to seek technologies to support their digitalisation, and our collaboration with UEM Edgenta is set to help accelerate this, and position ZainTech as the partner of choice for digital transformation,” noted Andrew Hanna, CEO of ZainTech. Read more.

The competition for telcos from over-the-top (OTT) messaging players is set to intensify, with Juniper Research expecting the total number of messages sent via OTT channels to increase by more than 70% in two years, up from 120 billion in 2023 to more than 175 billion in 2025. Growth is expected to come in part from the introduction of third-party interoperability by WhatsApp to align the messaging platform with the EU’s Digital Markets Act. “Through this interoperability, users will be able to exchange messages from WhatsApp to other messaging channels. This will reduce the constraint of siloed ecosystems on messaging growth,” wrote the research firm in its latest report focused on the OTT business messaging market. Further interoperability is expected to come into effect in non-EU member countries as well, which is tipped to reduce the number of issues around regional fragmentation on OTT applications, and to “increase the value proposition of OTT channels for enterprise users of business messaging,” according to Juniper Research. In a separate study from the start of 2023, the company suggested that OTT messaging apps are set to ‘cannibalise’ established communications channels, such as SMS.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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