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Telecom trends 2010…and 2011?

29 декабря 2010

Turbulent markets. Eurozone contagion. Hot Asian businesses. Slow U.S. growth. Financing market difficult. Regulators active. There has been a lot going on in 2010. These things have affected companies in the telecoms sector differently depending on their position in the value chain, the shape of their business and the geographies in which they operate.

While there was no one great theme for 2010, there were still clear trends and perhaps the mist is clearing in our crystal ball for 2011.

Emerging markets

In general, there was more activity and interest in emerging markets than in Europe, the US and the Middle East.

There was significant activity in Africa, Brazil and Asia during the course of the year. As ever, there were a range of factors driving activity but two themes were clear. There were disposals by global players of minority or portfolio interests - Vodafone’s disposal of its stakes in China Mobile and SoftBank and Millicom’s disposals for example.

More interestingly, 2010 saw increasing numbers of emerging markets deals by players from the new markets. Bharti’s acquisition of Zain’s interests in Africa stands out but there were also deals by Libya’s Lap Green and South Africa’s MTN across the African continent, as well as Turk Telekom’s acquisition of CEE-based Invitel and the high profile attempt by Vimpelcom to buy the assets of Weather Investments.

With the economic strength of their home markets, and cash to spend, we would expect this trend to continue in 2011, the only question being when it will be curtailed by either thin levels of management expertise or political intervention (e.g. in the case of MTN’s bid for Algeria’s Djezzy).

Financial environment

The financial environment has remained difficult for all but those with the best credits. There has been little private equity activity above the mid market although the value of deals has been steadily increasing through the year. Many operations have remained focused on cost control and cost sharing, this has driven infrastructure sharing and disposals.

Limited finance has restricted the number of potential buyers for all assets and many auction processes have been drawn out and in some cases ultimately unsuccessful. This trend, and stronger equity markets, has led a number of financial owners to seek to realise the value through the equity markets with IPOs, as was the case for KDG, and is being mooted in relation to TDC.

In terms of realising trapped value, another equity solution in the form of demerger was also adopted by Cable & Wireless and Carphone Warehouse.

Distressed operators have continued to be a feature of the market with the likes of Wind Hellas, Primacom and Vivacom all making the headlines. All these situations have been in work out through the year but very few new companies are now arriving in the emergency ward, and we do not expect this to be a significant trend for 2011.


The increase in tower deals has been a particular trend in 2010 with considerable activity in parts of Africa, India, Pakistan and South America. Disposal of tower assets has enabled operators to save on capex and opex and continue to extract value in markets where subscriber growth is slowing and data has not yet taken off.

We expect this trend to continue in 2011 as more operators become comfortable with not owning their infrastructure.


With less financial buyers in the market, some operators under financial pressure and other operators cash rich, the time for consolidation and rationalisation should have been upon us in many markets in 2010.

The extent to which that has been the case has varied, and will continue to vary, from region to region, but as has been the case in recent years consolidation remains more discussed than achieved.

In terms of successes, the consolidation of Russian telcos MTS and Comstar has created a much stronger player, along with the international mergers of Vimpelcom and Kyivstar, and Megafon and Turkcell.

In the UK, the 2009 deal to put together the assets of T-Mobile and Orange to create Everything Everywhere appears to be working well and in Brazil, despite attempted political intervention, Telefonica has managed to take control of Vivo.

The continued incursion of platform and handset providers into the operators’ traditional customer relationships is likely to lead to increased vertical integration in portable device supply chain for smartphones and tablets etc. Early indicators include H-P's acquisition of Palm and RIM's recent acquisition of user interface specialist TAT.

Elsewhere, the issues that constrain consolidation remain significant and will continue to limit any trend in this direction in 2011.

Competition concerns limited consolidation in German cable and the merger of Sunrise and Orange Switzerland. In emerging markets, foreign investment restrictions continue to constrain the ability of international companies to take control of local assets and are now increasingly combined with antitrust controls.

India is a particularly compelling case in point, where multiple operators and collapsing prices cry out for consolidation but foreign investment restrictions, exchange controls, licence lock ups and restrictions in holding more than 10% in any two operators have made consolidation virtually impossible.

Some of these restrictions are gradually being relaxed, but when you add the jeopardy created by the retrospective revision of Indian tax laws applied to catch the Vodafone/Hutchison transaction, deals look difficult to do.

So what for 2011, more of the same? We believe that players from emerging markets will be increasingly active and will push more into the enterprise and equipment space in developed markets as they match quality with low pricing – witness the increasing presence of Asian players such as Huawei, ZTE, China Telecom and Fujitsu in the European and US markets.

Consolidation will remain a much talked about and rarely achieved goal while the disposal or sharing of tower infrastructure will continue as companies continue to focus down on what they do best and where they can achieve maximum value. As more tower assets are separated from networks, M&A between tower companies will begin in earnest.

Private equity involvement in transactions will steadily increase through 2011, and the scale of deals they are involved in will get larger. There is a lot of money in funds and we believe it will increasingly be put to work.

We anticipate that there will also be new trends to watch. Several operators including Telefonica and Vodafone have emphasised that they will focus on growth opportunities in core businesses.

Vodafone has publicly identified enhanced data services in these businesses as a growth area and has already acquired Quickcom and T&T Expense Management. There may well be fierce competition to sweep up the smaller companies that can supply these enhanced services.

Another trend to watch is the start of a potential war for spectrum. Harbinger, having decided not to acquire Inmarsat, has been acquiring spectrum through its LightSquared vehicle.

As data becomes more important in order to maintain growth and spectrum auctions continue to proliferate around the globe, spectrum is going to be a more valuable commodity. Ownership of spectrum may become the newest driver for M&A activity in 2011.

Источник: Total Telecom

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