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European mobile consolidation a must

26 августа 2009

In its mid-year review of European telecoms, the credit ratings agency identified the need to invest in fibre and margin risk from mobile data services as "key threats to business models" in the next two years.

The first half of the year was particularly difficult for the U.K., Spain, Germany, Greece and Poland, the company noted, where price erosion, regulatory pressure and the poor economic situation took their toll on operators' results.

"The recession has brought into stark relief the fact that these markets have too many operators and that consolidation is needed, particularly in the mobile sector," Fitch Ratings analysts said.

Average revenue growth for the aforementioned markets stood at -3.2% on-year in the first half of 2009, while more resilient markets, such as France, Benelux and Italy, recorded average revenue growth of -1.8%.

Operators in Germany and the U.K. were particularly hard hit in 1H, while France Telecom, despite its exposure to the U.K. market, has benefitted from the fact that it derives the majority of its cash flow from its domestic market where competition is less fierce, Fitch Ratings explained.

Meanwhile, telcos with strong emerging markets portfolios, such as Vodafone and Telefonica, "have recorded above average growth from these geographies, and Fitch expects this will continue, albeit at a slower pace," the company said.

Across Europe, telecoms markets performed slightly worse than Fitch Ratings expected in 1H.

The company warned that although mobile data usage continues to grow, and to some extent has helped offset economic and regulatory impacts, the pace of growth has slowed and operators have not witnessed a corresponding increase in ARPU.

"If markets remain as competitive – i.e. consolidation does not occur – Fitch is concerned that potential new revenue and margin growth services such as non-messaging mobile data may be competed away in the drive to offer 'value' and retain existing customers," it said.

Fitch highlighted the next-generation networks space as another key area for concern in Europe.

Maturing markets and increasing competitive pressure – especially from cable TV players - make it more urgent for Europe's incumbent operators to invest in fibre networks, But at the same time, it is now more difficult for operators to justify this type of investment, given the weak economy and inability to guarantee a return.

"Expectations for the remainder of 2009 and into early 2010 are for similar trends to play out," the firm concluded.

Источник: Total Telecom

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