End of an era as Osman Sultan steps down as du CEO in 2020

UAE telco Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company (du) has announced the departure of long-standing CEO, Osman Sultan, to be replaced by Johan Dennelind, who is set to assume the role early next year. Sultan has been the CEO of du since its launch in 2006.

As he was…Osman Sultan at the time of his appointment as EITC CEO in 2006

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Vodafone makes a play for Oman. Is it the correct one?

UK telco Vodafone is set to become the third operator in Oman after signing an agreement with the Ministry of Transport and Communications that will see Oman Future Telecommunications work with the firm to deploy the country’s third mobile network.

The UK new entrant will have its work cut out for it with respect to gaining market share with Oman’s mobile penetration rate estimated at over 150%

In May, the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Oman said a memorandum of understanding had been signed between a group of investment funds in Oman and Vodafone. Upon commercialisation, Vodafone will become the third cellco in Oman behind Omantel and Nawras, and will also have to contend with two mobile virtual network operators – Virgin Mobile Middle East and Renna Mobile.

The UK new entrant will have its work cut out for it with respect to gaining market share with Oman’s mobile penetration rate estimated at over 150%.

Regulation hinders uptake of mobile money transfer services in India

Vodafone Idea, the India mobile operator created last year by the merger of Vodafone India and Idea Cellular, has announced plans to close its m-Pesa mobile money transfer business alongside the Payments Bank previously operated under the Idea brand, according to media reports in India.

The economic model for the Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank is described as being no longer viable, and Vodafone Idea is also set to stop operating m-Pesa

During the company’s recent fiscal Q1 media call, Vodafone Idea CEO, Balesh Sharma said the economic model for the Aditya Birla Idea Payments Bank was no longer viable and together with winding-up the unit, Vodafone Idea would also move to stop operating m-Pesa.

Sharma attributed the decisions to regulatory changes for the banking business and deterioration of the telecommunications sector.

Abitya Birla Idea Payments Bank was part of a scheme by authorities in India to increase access to financial saving services, though similar services from Bharti Airtel and Paytm have also faced difficulties, with both forced to suspend services by regulators for a period during 2018.

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.

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.