What’s up with… SoftBank and Arm, Aviat and Ceragon, Asterion

  • SoftBank dithers over London listing for Arm
  • Ceragon hits back at Aviat’s takeover-related claims
  • Asterion builds a datacentre and fibre transport network arsenal in Italy

In today’s industry roundup: Political turmoil in the UK makes SoftBank think twice about listing Arm stock in London; Ceragon slams Aviat’s Trojan horse takeover efforts; Asterion builds an Italian digital asset empire; and more!  

SoftBank has suspended plans to list Arm shares on the London Stock Exchange (LSE) as part of its initial public offering (IPO) plan for the chip technology developer, according to a report from the Financial Times (FT) that cites sources with knowledge of the Japanese company’s plans. SoftBank, which acquired Arm in 2016 for $32bn, had struck a deal to sell the UK-based chip tech specialist to US graphics chip giant Nvidia in a cash and stock deal worth up to $66bn. However, that deal was terminated in February this year after the planned acquisition encountered insurmountable regulatory challenges and SoftBank decided instead to start an IPO process for Arm’s stock. SoftBank had preferred a listing in the US as that is where most of Arm’s main customers are based, but representatives of the UK government and financial community had recently persuaded the Japanese company to consider listing at least some of Arm’s stock on the LSE as part of a complex dual-listing process. Now, though, the political turmoil in the UK has made SoftBank wary of including the LSE in its plans, according to the FT’s sources, as the UK government representatives with whom it had been negotiating are no longer in their roles, following a mass resignation from Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration. What a mess! 

Wireless backhaul equipment vendor Ceragon has hit back at the unwelcome takeover attention it has been getting from rival Aviat Networks during the past month. In late June, Aviat, having already snapped up a 5% stake in its competitor, made a public $235m bid for Ceragon, stating that the deal made sense but that it had needed to go public with its offer because the Ceragon board had given it the cold shoulder and refused to engage. It followed that up with an open letter to its “fellow Ceragon shareholders”, urging them to back its bid by nominating the five new board members that Aviat is proposing. Now Ceragon has hit back with a presentation to its shareholders that decries its rival’s move as a “Trojan horse hostile campaign” that aims to wrest control via means that violate its shareholder-approved articles by placing unqualified individuals onto the company’s board just so they can force through an acquisition. It also claims the offer is an opportunistic takeover effort at a low-ball price and cites a number of Wall Street analysts that, on average, value Ceragon’s stock at about 80% more than the $2.80 per share that Aviat is offering. Ceragon also delves into a detailed analysis of its current business prospects, which (not surprisingly) are very positive and counter Aviat’s claims that Ceragon is being poorly managed and missing out on its potential. The Cergaon board was always going to respond to Aviat’s approach at some point: The ball is now back in Aviat’s court. Ceragon’s share price traded up by 4.3% on Monday to $2.69, which is still below Aviat’s offer but up by almost 40% over the past month. Watch this space!!   

Infrastructure investor Asterion Industrial Partners is building itself an interesting mini empire in Italy. While much of the focus there is on the fate of Telecom Italia (TIM)’s new industrial plan and the planned merger between Open Fiber and TIM’s fixed access unit, Asterion has acquired a 78.4% stake in Irideos, which operates a number of datacentres in Milan, Rome, Verona and Trento, and a network of 27,000km of fibre along motorways, the Adriatic coast and in metro areas, as well as through 15 datacentres. It plans to marry those assets with the 19 datacentres and 15,000km of fibre (including metropolitan networks in the 14 largest cities) from its existing operation, Retelit, which it acquired late last year. “Using its industrial approach and expertise, Asterion aims to consolidate Retelit’s and Irideos’s position in the Italian telecom sector by merging the two highly complementary businesses, creating the largest alternative wholesale access and B2B connectivity provider in Italy,” it notes in this press release, which also outlines the breadth and depth of its communications and digital infrastructure assets in Spain, the UK and Ireland, as well as Italy.   

Five companies have been accepted to try out their Open RAN technology on the Sonic test bed being run by UK communications technology development centre Digital Catapult in partnership with UK telecom regulator Ofcom. The five companies are: Dublin-based Benetel; Oxford, UK-based CableFree; Luleå, Sweden-based Effnet; Piaseczno, Poland-based IS-Wireless; and San Diego, US-based Phluido. Read more.  

Philippines-based operator Globe Telecom announced that it is offering its services free of charge for Filipino customers in Sri Lanka, which is experiencing tensions amid an economic crisis. Those who use Globe’s roaming services will get a complimentary package of 15 minutes of calls, 15 texts and 1Gbyte of data for seven days. “We are closely monitoring the events unfolding in Sri Lanka and are providing free connectivity to Filipinos there to ensure they are able to reach their families and friends during this challenging time,” explained Coco Domingo, Globe VP for post-paid and international business. Customers will be able to access the free services by connecting to one of Globe’s partners in Sri Lanka – Hutch and Dialog Axiata. The economic situation in Sri Lanka has been worsening since 2019, which has led to mass anti-government protests, and the resignation and escape of president Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

- The staff, TelecomTV

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