Telcos have urge to merge and diverge

This doesn't feel like an industry in crisis, despite the woes of the big infrastructure equipment makers. It feels like telcos are trying to find ways to exploit growth and opportunities, rather than simply shore up struggling businesses. As ever, their logic is not always clear.

Verizon Communications is keen to get rid of Vodafone as a shareholder in the US' second biggest mobile operator, Verizon Wireless. Verizon Communications, owns 55%, Vodafone the rest.

Ivan Seidenberg, chief executive of Verizon Communications, is very clear about the reasons he wants Vodafone out. He told the Financial Times, "Would I like to have 100 per cent of the earnings given we're doing 100 per cent of the work‾ Yeah, I would."

Vodafone's stake is reckoned to be worth US$60 billion (€38 billion), up by about US$10 billion (€6.33 billion) since the last effort to dump Vodafone two years ago. No wonder Vodafone's CEO Arun Sarin said no and that this latest effort coincides with his departure.

France Telecom was given the cold shoulder by TeliaSonera and the Swedish government, who were not impressed by the French incumbent's offer to buy TeliaSonera for €26.6 billion. France Telecom has now officially abandoned the purchase.

No doubt many France Telecom shareholders will be greatly relieved, as they couldn't see the strategic value in the acquisition in the first place.

In the meantime, Deutsche Telekom's shareholder are equally sceptical about the strategic wisdom of it acquiring a controlling share of Greece's incumbent, OTE (see story below).

British wanna-be global telco, Cable & Wireless, has confirmed it is thinking about(!) raising its offer for fellow British carrier Thus to £329.5 million (€416 million), a 9% increase on the original offer it made in May that was rejected.

However, at that time Thus was expecting rival bids form COLT and Global Crossing, but they failed to materialise. Surely there must be a message in there somewhere‾

In the meantime, the Polish market is suffering from no such hesitancy. Tele2 has sold its Polish operations to Netia for around SEK 300 million in cash, which at least has the merit of making strategic sense.

At the end of March, Tele2 Poland served nearly 15,000 fixed broadband customers and 716,000 fixed telephony customers. Tele2 Poland contributed sales in 2007 of €100 million and EBITDA of €4.54 million.

This acquisition is expected to increase Netia's customer base to over 300,000 broadband subscribers and nearly 1.2 million fixed voice customers, while revenues are estimated to grow over 40%.