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India’s Vodafone Idea remains hopeful as stock plummets

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As Vodafone Idea descends deeper into its doom, India’s leading telco stock plunged on Wednesday over 5 percent in afternoon trading hours on Bombay Stock Exchange after the operator’s proposals to revive the telecom sector had been snubbed during a recent Cabinet meeting.

Last month, the telco’s shares witnessed an 18 percent rise, reaching 31 percent throughout the first half hour of trading due to a long-anticipated governmental telecom relief package.

The company’s 10 percent augmentation was triggered by circulated rumors that the Indian government intended to provide Vodafone Idea with a four-year moratorium on the spectrum and adjusted gross revenue (AGR) dues.

Chairman of the distressed mobile operator, Himanshu Kapania, confessed in a letter shared with shareholders his optimism that the government will provide the support needed. 

“Your company believes the government recognizes the criticality of the sector and the importance of retaining healthy competition amongst private sector operators,” Kapania said in the letter.

“As the industry continues to remain under unsustainable financial duress, your Company is hopeful that the government will provide the necessary support to address all structural issues faced by the sector. Your company, with a history of providing 25 years of services to the country, is hopeful that the government will support its efforts to generate reasonable returns on their massive investments,” he added.

However, a recent report by Reuters revealed that the government has not yet announced any plans concerning the telecom package relief.

The Indian Cabinet was meant to decide on the possibility of providing the telecommunication industry a relief package to moderate the weight of spectrum payments and ARG dues. The move would gravely ease up Vodafone Idea’s tenuous financial position, heavy debts, and the never-ending bid that the government will reconsider calculating its AGR dues on the firm. 

Currently, the government is contemplating the option of obtaining a minimal stake percentage in the troubled telco to ease up investors’ worries regarding the company’s fate. This could be a small ratio contra a segment of spectrum payments and AGR dues owed by the carrier to the government.

An alternative option discussed is for the government to turn a part of Vodafone Idea’s dues into equity after four years.

Last week, Aditya Birla Group’s (ABG) chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, conducted a meeting with India’s Minister of Telecom Ashwini Vaishnaw notifying him of the situation’s severity while highlighting that the company will not have the capacity to revive itself without governmental support.

From his part, Vaishnaw demanded a plan as to when will the telecom operator be able to attract investments, in addition to medium-term plans, while disclosing the average revenue per user (APRU) expectations once the government releases its relief package.

Early August, Birla retired from his position as the telecom operator’s chairman and was later substituted by Himanshu Kapania.

While Kapania remains confident that governmental efforts will pull the company from its fracturing void, in the past couple of months, Vodafone Idea was faced with nothing but failure regarding its fundraising plan to help the company recover from its debts.

Unless the telecom operator demonstrates adequate reform plans, things might stay in the dark for the telco as the government will keep its guard and refrain from offering a relief package.

Telecoms

Pakistan, UAE’s Etisalat rectify 14-year-old valuation quarrel

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The Pakistani government has decisively reached a settlement with UAE’s Etisalat over what seemed to be a never-ending quarrel following the Emirati operator’s acquisition of a faction of shares in Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL).

The achieved settlement focuses on the assessment of multiple properties initially planned to become a segment of PTCL after its 2006 privatization. In the agreement’s terms, Hatem Dowidar, Etisalat’s CEO, confirmed that the Emirati telco will pay $2.6 billion for a 26 percent share value in PTCL. A $1.8 billion sum has already been approved and paid upfront.

Etisalat had previously arranged a five-year extended period to finalize the remainder of the payment to the Pakistani government on the grounds that more than 3000 properties will be rolled into PTCL.

However, by the time UAE’s telecom operator realized that the government could not maintain its part of the deal by establishing its role in the agreement, Etisalat refrained from finalizing the remainder of its balance, therefore putting it on hold any future actions.

Originally, before the accumulated tensions on the deal, the sale deed’s quarrel circulated the settlement of several properties via valuation of assets by the government and Etisalat. 

PTCL’s asset management department submitted in its privatization agreement false and exponentially faulty records of its properties. The document stated that the Pakistani telco owned 3,248 properties when in reality, it had 3,384. The privatization agreement finalized in 2006 has been in full dispute mode for the past 14 years.

In 2015, due to legal terms, segments of the firms’ transfer deal to PTCL had been finalized, with only 30 remained lingering until final agreement on any lingering legal conditions. Some of these firms were properties obtained by private investors and should not be in the original agreement between the Pakistani government and Etisalat.

According to the CommsUpdate, Pakistan’s government succumbed to an agreement stating that it must extract the value of the mentioned private properties from the $800 million sum that is currently owned by Etisalat.

It is worth mentioning that Pakistan’s government has previously proposed to Etisalat a $60 million deduction from the total of $800 million.

Nevertheless, none of the mentioned agreements have been finalized as parties close to the matter will decide on a just and impartial fair valuation of the properties.

Until now, Pakistan’s Ministry of Finance disclosed that both parties are trying to reach a mutual understanding, supervised by “internationally renowned evaluation companies.” UAE’s Etisalat’s CEO has already given his blessing to this process as it could potentially lead to the valuation’s completion in a matter of “a couple of months.” 

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Subscription rates reshuffles power among India’s telcos, report finds

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India’s telecom sector witnessed a striking fluctuation in its telcos’ subscribers, with Reliance Jio gaining 6.5 million and Airtel adding 1.9 million to its userbase during July, whereas Vodafone Idea’s consumer base went down by over 1.4 million, according to a data report by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI).

With the emergence of a new subscribers’ haul, India’s telecom operators witnessed a shift in power in its userbase in July. The country’s leading telco, Reliance Jio, took the market’s lead as its userbase reached a whopping 443.2 million, Bharti Airtel rose to 354 million, and Vodafone Idea’s disastrous last quarter resulted in a catastrophic slip to 271.9 million.

In a mount to raise its wireless subscribers, the TRAI data report revealed that Reliance Jio market share grew by 37.34 percent reaching a 1.49 percent monthly growth rate bestowing the telco with the highest rank, followed by Bharti Airtel at a 29.83 percent rise embracing a 0.55 percent monthly growth by the end of July, according to report.

While some of India’s telecom operators experienced an amplification in its userbase, the same thing cannot be said about Vodafone Idea, as it endured one of its most challenging quarters so far. The operator’s market share fell to 22.91 percent leading to a 0.52 percent decline in monthly growth, followed by state-owned telcos BNSL with a 9.64 percent reduction with a 0.88 percent descent in monthly market rate and MTNL at 0.28 percent with a 0.18 percent decline in the monthly rate.

“As of 31st July 2021, the private access service providers held 90.99 percent market share of the wireless subscribers whereas BNSL and MTNL, the two PSU access service providers, had a market share of only 9.91 percent,” the report revealed.

As for Vodafone Idea, the carrier’s CEO Ravinder Takkar revealed to the Press Trust of India (PTI) that currently, the company is trying to maintain its focus on improving its strategy, providing the needed support system to their user base, enhance competitiveness, and brand, and aim for higher investment rate.

“I am confident that it will take place as well but we are not driven by the fact that we have to somehow… away market share from competitors and we are not driven by the fact that we have to become the largest player and somehow we have to ear into their share to find a place for self in the market,” Takkar stated when asked about Vodafone Idea’s dropping market share.

It is worth mentioning that Vodafone Idea endured an arduous quarter as the telco’s stock dropped over 5 percent in its trading hours on the Bombay Stock Exchange. The government’s Cabinet finally approved a desperately needed relief package set to support the country’s agonized telecom sector.

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One to charge them all: EU demands single plug for phones

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One to charge them all EU demands single plug for phones

The European Union announced plans Thursday to require the smartphone industry to adopt a uniform charging cord for mobile devices, a push that could eliminate the all-too-familiar experience of rummaging through a drawer full of tangled cables to find the right one.

The European Commission, the bloc’s executive arm, proposed legislation that would mandate USB-C cables for charging, technology that many device makers have already adopted. The main holdout is Apple, which said it was concerned the new rules would limit innovation, and that would end up hurting consumers. iPhones come with the company’s own Lightning charging port, though the newest models come with cables that can be plugged into a USB-C socket.

The push by the EU will certainly be cheered by the millions of people who have searched through a jumble of snarled cables for the one that fits their phone. But the EU also wants to cut down on the 11,000 metric tons of electronic waste thrown out every year by Europeans.

The commission said the typical EU resident owns at least three chargers, and use two regularly, but 38% of people report not being able to charge their phones at least once because they couldn’t find a compatible charger. Some 420 million mobile phones or portable electronic devices were sold in the EU last year.

The draft rules also call for standardizing fast charging technology and giving consumers the right to choose whether to buy new devices with or without a charger, which the EU estimates will save consumers 250 million euros ($293 million) a year.

After attempting for more than a decade to cajole the industry into adopting a common standard – efforts that whittled dozens of different charging plugs down to a handful – the EU’s executive Commission is pushing the issue.

“Chargers power all our most essential electronic devices. With more and more devices, more and more chargers are sold that are not interchangeable or not necessary. We are putting an end to that,” Thierry Breton, the EU’s internal market commissioner, said. “With our proposal, European consumers will be able to use a single charger for all their portable electronics – an important step to increase convenience and reduce waste.”

Companies will get two years to adapt to the new rules once they take effect. The rules would apply only to electronics sold in the European single market’s 30 countries, but, like the EU’s strict privacy regulations, they could end up becoming a de facto standard for the rest of the world.

Apple said it shared the European Commission’s commitment to protecting the environment but questioned whether the proposals would help consumers.

“We remain concerned that strict regulation mandating just one type of connector stifles innovation rather than encouraging it, which in turn will harm consumers in Europe and around the world,” the company said in a statement.

Breton denied that the new rules would slow innovation.

“If Apple wants to continue to have their own plug, they will have the ability to do it. It’s not against innovation, it’s just to make the lives of our fellow citizens a little bit more easy,” Breton said at a press briefing in Brussels, adding that device makers could still put two different ports on their phones if they want. He added that the proposals would allow for updates to keep pace with advances in technology.

Under the proposed law, which must still be scrutinized and approved by the European Parliament, phones, tablets, digital cameras, handheld video game consoles, headsets and headphones sold in the European Union would all have to come with USB-C charging ports. Earbuds, smartwatches and fitness trackers aren’t included.


LONDON (AP)

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