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    Tuesday, November 19, 2013

    Suzanne Vega samples 50 Cent

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    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Reuter site - Mexico to identify possible telecom antitrust targets 'very soon'

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    Mexico to identify possible telecom antitrust targets 'very soon'

    Mon, Nov 11 17:06 PM EST

    MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico's new telecommunications watchdog said on Monday it may identify this month which companies dominate the local market, likely paving the way for tougher regulation against telecom company America Movil and broadcaster Televisa.

    Gabriel Contreras, president of the Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT), said the watchdog would in the near future inform the companies it had determined to be dominant, adding that it could be as soon as this month.

    "We'll be notifying the players very soon that according to our information ... could be predominant economic agents," Contreras told reporters in Mexico City.

    Billionaire Carlos Slim's telecommunications company, America Movil, controls 70 percent of the mobile phone market, and about 80 percent of the fixed-line business, while Televisa has more than 60 percent of the TV market.

    Nurturing competition in the telecom industry is one of the main priorities of President Enrique Pena Nieto, who earlier this year pushed a reform through Congress that gives the regulator sweeping powers to shake up the market.

    The reform stipulates that players with a market share of more than 50 percent will be declared "predominant."

    Those companies can be subject to a range of measures aimed at leveling the playing field in Mexico, where much corporate power is concentrated in very few hands.

    Lawmakers in Congress say they expect both America Movil and Televisa to be declared dominant in Mexico by IFT.

    Contreras did not say who would be declared dominant, but when asked whether fair conditions in Mexico existed before the IFT took shape in September, he said: "The answer is no."

    The IFT has until March 9 to decide which measures to apply to dominant players, during which time the companies in question can argue their case against tougher regulation.

    America Movil, which in Mexico provides mobile services with the Telcel brand and fixed lines under the name Telmex, has already said it expects to be declared dominant.

    Those companies may be subject to asymmetric regulation, forced to share infrastructure with competitors - and may even be broken up by the IFT, according to the new laws.

    The idea was to order breakups as a last resort, Contreras said, adding that secondary legislation to implement Pena Nieto's reform would set out conditions for using that option.

    Contreras noted that companies did not have to be declared dominant for the IFT to order them to divest assets, nor does the regulator have to wait until March 9 to apply anti-trust measures.

    The secondary laws are due to be passed by early December.

    Slim and Televisa have spent years battling efforts to impose tougher rules on how they operate, using legal injunctions and appeals to thwart regulators. Much of that legal cover has been swept away by the new reform.

    (Reporting by Dave Graham; editing by Matthew Lewis)

    Reuter site - Vodafone to ramp up investment as trading suffers

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    Vodafone to ramp up investment as trading suffers

    Tue, Nov 12 11:21 AM EST

    By Kate Holton

    LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's Vodafone will spend 7 billion pounds - more than expected and earlier than expected - to increase the speed and coverage of its networks and reverse a record fall in revenues resulting from its struggling European business.

    The world's second-largest mobile operator, which is using some of the proceeds from the $130 billion sale of its U.S. arm to upgrade its infrastructure, said it would spend 3 billion pounds in Europe, 1.5 billion in its emerging markets and the rest on fixed-line assets, enterprise and its retail arm.

    It will complete the program by March 2016 - a billion pounds more than expected and a year earlier than forecast - to meet the demand of consumers who want on-the-go internet access via smartphones and tablets.

    "We expect that during the next three to five years, Europe will definitely improve," Chief Executive Vittorio Colao told reporters. "Therefore, we prefer to have a stronger, more performing and more differentiated operation by then so that we can come out at a higher speed than everybody else."

    Shares in Vodafone were up 0.6 percent at 228.75 pence at 1405 GMT, outperforming the European telecoms index, which was down 0.7 percent.

    The group, which is seen as a possible bid candidate for U.S. giant AT&T, set out the details of its "Project Spring" spending program as it reported first-half results showing the pressures across the group.

    Organic service revenue, which strips out items such as handset sales, currency and acquisitions, was down a worse than expected 4.9 percent in the second quarter due to regulator-imposed price cuts and fierce competition in Italy, Spain, Germany, Turkey and Britain. Civil unrest in Egypt also hit demand.

    The 4.9 percent second quarter fall was worse than the 3.5 percent drop recorded in the first quarter and well below the last record fall of 4.2 percent in the fourth quarter.

    In the three months to the end of September, organic service revenue was down 4.9 percent in northern and central Europe, down 15.5 percent in southern Europe and up 5.7 percent in its emerging markets such as India and South Africa.

    Credit rating agency Moody's said on Tuesday it expected a fifth year of revenue decline in 2014, though operating margins would stabilize, helped by cost cutting and the end of regulatory cuts to mobile call termination fees.


    "We view the decision to accelerate and expand Project Spring positively, given it brings forward the commercial benefits and increases competitive pressure on Vodafone's indebted and sub-scale rivals," Goldman Sachs said in a note.

    Vodafone said the spending plans would take 0.6 billion pounds off its core earnings in the 2015 financial year. It expects the investment to result in incremental free cash flow of over 1 billion pounds in the 2019 financial year, and it otherwise reiterated its 2014 outlook.

    Vodafone will now invest a total of 19 billion pounds over two years, when the Project Spring spending is added to regular investment of 12 billion pounds over that period. Colao said the expected improvement in the European economy would combine with an expected increase in the usage of data-hungry smartphones, making the improved network a necessity.

    "We are laying strong foundations for the future," Colao said. "The two years ahead will see the largest and fastest period of network investment in our 25-year history."

    Colao said he expected Vodafone's strongest rivals, likely to include Telefonica, Deutsche Telekom and Orange, to follow suit while smaller rivals would likely struggle.

    Moody's agreed: "Not many incumbent operators have the financial flexibility to match this, and the challengers ... have even less financial flexibility because of their high leverage."

    Strong growth in data consumption by smartphones, tablets and other devices means network quality is becoming more important in the fight to win and keep customers.

    With that in mind, Vodafone decided to plough some of the proceeds from the sale of its 45 percent in Verizon Wireless into infrastructure. But the bulk of the windfall from Verizon Communications - $84 billion - will be handed to shareholders, and the rest used to cut debt.

    Vodafone said its decision to invest had also been driven by a belief that it should see softer regulation from Brussels, which has spent years forcing down roaming and other call fees.

    The group also recognized additional deferred tax assets of 17.7 billion pounds in relation to the group's historical tax losses. It said this would not have any impact on the tax it pays, but analysts said it could prove attractive to a possible suitor.

    Bankers have told Reuters that AT&T is scouting for targets in Europe, with Vodafone the leading candidate - a bold bid that would provide instant scale across the region - but Colao declined to comment on whether he expected a deal to take place.

    ($1 = 0.6261 British pounds)

    (Reporting by Kate Holton; Editing by Paul Sandle and Will Waterman)

    Sunday, November 3, 2013

    Reuter site - Fairfax struggles to raise funds for BlackBerry bid: sources

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    Fairfax struggles to raise funds for BlackBerry bid: sources

    Fri, Nov 01 19:22 PM EDT

    By Soyoung Kim, Nadia Damouni and Nicola Leske

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd is struggling to raise financing for its $4.7 billion bid for BlackBerry Ltd, with several large banks declining to participate on concerns that the smartphone maker will not be able to reverse its fortunes, according to people familiar with the matter.

    Fairfax, which is run by Canadian financier Prem Watsa, is working with Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO Capital Markets to put together a lending syndicate for a deal, but they have been turned down by several large lenders, the sources said.

    Bank of America Merrill Lynch and BMO both have deep pockets themselves, and it is still possible they will muster the necessary financing for Fairfax to submit a definitive bid.

    Fairfax, the largest shareholder in BlackBerry with a 10 percent stake, reached a tentative $9-per-share deal with BlackBerry in late September, and has until November 4 to negotiate a definitive agreement.

    Several other potential bidders are also mulling participation in BlackBerry's future. The deadline for them to submit bids for the company is also Monday.

    Fairfax and BlackBerry declined to comment.

    The difficulties Fairfax has had in raising financing underscore the fading relevance of BlackBerry, which once pioneered on-the-go email but has bled market share to Apple Inc's iPhone and devices using Google Inc's Android software in recent years.

    Should Fairfax fail to put together a bid for BlackBerry, a deal could still be possible with other technology companies in the sector. BlackBerry founders Mike Lazaridis and Douglas Fregin have also declared their interest in buying BlackBerry.

    Lazaridis and Fregin are working to submit a joint bid with private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management LP, a person familiar with the matter said on Friday. Chipmaker Qualcomm Inc also may join the bidding group, that person added.

    It was not clear whether Lazaridis and Fregin would overcome the financing hurdles that Fairfax faces. Cerberus and a spokesman for the two founders declined to comment, while Qualcomm did not immediately respond to requests for comment.


    BlackBerry also remains in discussions with several technology companies about a deal, the people familiar with the matter said this week, asking not to be named because the matter is confidential.

    The company's advisers are looking to pair up the technology companies that are pursuing different parts of BlackBerry, which include hardware, operating systems, patent portfolios and network assets, the people said.

    BlackBerry has held talks with a number of companies including Cisco Systems Inc, Google Inc, SAP AG, Lenovo Group Ltd, Samsung Electronics, LG Electronics Inc and Intel Corp about selling part or all of itself, Reuters previously reported.

    Some of these companies, including SAP, have since walked away from the deal, although the situation is fluid and there is possibility that interest may be renewed, two people said. A SAP spokesman said BlackBerry did not fit with the company's strategy.


    In a September 25 interview with Reuters, Fairfax Chief Executive Watsa - often described as Canada's answer to Warren Buffett - said he was confident his consortium could find the money needed to fund their bid.

    However, the proposal has met with rising skepticism as BlackBerry's prospects continued to darken. The company in September reported a quarterly loss of nearly $1 billion after taking a writedown on unsold Z10 phones.

    Adding to the company's woes, it's likely to burn through almost $2 billion of its cash pile in the next year and a half, Bernstein analyst Pierre Ferragu wrote last month.

    Canada's top pension funds - widely considered to be among the most likely backers of Watsa's proposal - declined to comment. However, some of their influential heads have already publicly indicated that they are unlikely to play any role in a bid for BlackBerry.

    "No one has really committed themselves to any group because none of the people that have been circling around BlackBerry have come up with a very convincing business plan," Alberta Investment Management Corp's head Leo de Bever said on BNN Television, earlier this week.

    The head of Caisse de Depot et Placement du Quebec - Canada's second-largest pension fund told Bloomberg last month that the Caisse was also unlikely to invest in BlackBerry, as it prefers investing in more predictable businesses such as Coca-Cola Co and Colgate-Palmolive Co.

    (Reporting by Soyoung Kim, Nadia Damouni, Nicola Leske, Greg Roumeliotis in New York and Euan Rocha in Toronto; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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