Vodafone to spin-off towers into standalone business by May 2020

Following in the footsteps of Middle East operators such as Zain and Etisalat, Vodafone, Europe’s largest mobile operator, is putting into motion plans to spin-off its pan-European mobile tower business, in a process that could see the standalone company established as early as May 2020.

Mobile operators the world over have been struggling to grow revenues for years, and in a bid to do so, have become more open to opportunities to unlock embedded value in their operations. Vodafone recently reported that for the three months to end-June, year-on-year revenue was down 2%

Vodafone intends to monetise a substantial proportion of the new entity, TowerCo, within the next 18 months and this effort may include a potential flotation on the stock market, the sale of a minority stake in the whole business or in its tower operations in individual countries.

TowerCo will comprise 61,700 towers across 10 countries, with 75% of the sites located in key European markets of Germany, the UK, Italy and Spain. It is forecast the business will generate annual revenues in the region of €1.7 billion (US$1.9 billion) and €900 million in profits, leading analysts to value the business at between €15-20 billion.

Mobile operators the world over have been struggling to grow revenues for years, and in a bid to do so, have become more open to opportunities to unlock embedded value in their operations. Vodafone recently reported that for the three months to end-June, year-on-year revenue was down 2%.

Vodafone began evaluating a spin-off of the towers business last year, having received several offers for various parts of its portfolio.

5G stakes rise as falling operator revenues seek a remedy

The current financial results reporting season is an opportunity to assess the strategies being implemented by operators in a bid to hit the 5G jackpot, and whether these are likely to succeed or prove to be a challenging investment to garner positive results from.

Flat or declining revenues is a trend facing many service providers around the world, and in the UAE both Etisalat and du have been among 5G’s most fervent early proponents

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Etisalat co-develops platform to improve digitisation in trade financing

Etisalat Digital, in partnership with First Abu Dhabi Bank (FAB) and Avanza Innovations, has established the UAE Trade Connect (UTC), a new nationwide platform that it says will use the latest disruptive technologies to digitise trade in the UAE. The initial phase will focus on addressing the risks of double financing and invoice fraud before turning to other key areas of trade finance.

UTC is aimed at driving digital transformation of trade in the UAE by enabling banks, enterprises and governments to collectively benefit from innovations such as blockchain, artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics. Seven major UAE banks, in addition to FAB, have joined the nationwide platform. They are: Emirates NBD; Commercial Bank of Dubai; Mashreq; National Bank of Fujairah; RAK Bank; Abu Dhabi Islamic Bank; and Commercial Bank International.

Etisalat Digital along with the banks will form a working group to further develop and extend the solution to other areas of trade. The nationwide platform, which is open to all UAE banks, is set to safeguard banks from potential fraud losses through advanced detection tools, allowing them to extend additional financing to their corporate clients. 

ICO targets Marriott with cyber compromise fine amounting to 0.5% of 2017 revenue

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) intends to impose a hefty fine of nearly GBP 100 million (US$ 124 million) on international hotel chain Marriott, for last year’s data breach. The penalty, which is sanctioned under the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), is the second significant fine handed down by the ICO in virtually as many days, as BA continues to digest news that the watchdog plans to fine it a record US$ 230 million for a compromise last year.   

With respect to Marriott, last November, the company disclosed that hackers had accessed the Starwood guest reservation database since 2014. Personal information of hundreds of millions of guests was compromised, with Marriott having said the guest reservation system was retired earlier this year.

GDPR increases the maximum penalty that can be imposed on organisations that fail to comply with data protection regulations and experience a compromise to 4% of turnover, with the Marriott sanction amounting to 0.5% of the company’s worldwide turnover in 2017. BA’s fine amounted to 1.5% of the company’s turnover in the same year.

BA’s massive cyber fine sends out a clear signal, but does it drive home a point?

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) intends to levy a record fine of GBP 183 million (US$ 230 million) on British Airways (BA) for a data breach that occurred last year, which compromised the data up to 500,000 customers. The sanction is a bold expression of the sweeping new powers assumed by cyber watchdogs across Europe as a result of the enactment of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) last May.

The “big stick” approach to regulation has its place, though it should also be on lawmakers’ minds that not every breach will be a direct result of negligence or “poor security arrangements”

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