The WRAP: Vodafone agrees SFR sale; Polkomtel loses bidders

Vodafone this week brought the curtain down on a long running saga over the sale of its stake in French cellco SFR, while Asia Pacific operators bemoaned a lack of support for femtocells.
French media outfit Vivendi agreed to purchase Vodafone’s 44% holding for €7.95 billion, granting it full control of SFR, however the price agreed was higher than the €7 billion Vivendi originally offered, and lower than the £8 billion (€9.1 billion) Vodafone was seeking.
Vodafone will pump €4.5 billion of the sale income into buying back shares and reducing its debt, while Vivendi claimed the deal doesn’t mean it is switching its focus to telecoms.
In other acquisition news, two of the seven firms shortlisted to bid for Polish cellco Polkomtel pulled out of the sale on the same day the operator revealed profits grew 13.2% to 1.1 billion Polish zlotys (€276 million) in 2010. Current owners Vodafone, PKN Orlen and KGHM Polska Miedz have set a $5 billion (€3.5 billion) price tag.
Texas Instruments agreed to buy rival National Semiconductor for $6.5 billion (€4.5 billion), and packet software firm Metaswitch Networks snapped up instant messaging firm Colibria.
Several speakers at the Femtocell Asia event bemoaned a lack of seamless mobility, which they claim is a major obstacle to the rollout of femtocells in Asia Pacific.
Shih Mu-Piao, chief executive of Chungwha Telecom’s mobile division, said the price of femtocells must fall to around $50 (€35) to boost deployments. The operator plans to use femtos to improve network coverage in the near term, and hopes to use the technology to offload traffic in the longer term.
Irish incumbent Eircom agreed the country’s first major network sharing deal with Telefonica O2 Ireland. The ten year agreement will see some consolidation of the pairs 3,500 cell sites, but doesn’t cover asset or spectrum transfers.
India’s Department of Telecom issues fresh threats to revoke operator licenses for failing to meet 2G rollout obligations. Aircel, Etisalat and Sistema Shyam Teleservices have 60 days to explain coverage shortfalls.
Vodafone confirmed it will take its Indian business Vodafone Essar to IPO after completing a $5 billion (€3.4 billion) buyout of partner Essar’s 33% stake in the carrier.
BT announced plans to cover 80% of UK homes with an upgraded copper network offering 20Mbps peak data rates by the year-end. The network will complement a £2.5 billion (€2.8 billion) fiber network that will cover two thirds of the country by 2015.
Global semiconductor equipment sales rebounded from two years of declines in 2010, growing 143% to $41 billion (€28.9 billion), figures from research firm Gartner show.
Nortel picked a $900 million (€629 million) bid from Google as its stalking horse in the sale of 6,000 patents and applications covering 4G, data networking, optical, voice and semiconductors.
And Singaporean operator M1 forked out S$21.69 million (€12 million) for two additional 5MHz slots in the 1800MHz band - 54 times higher than the S$400,000 reserve price set by regulator IDA.