Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Fragmented services business makes UK operators takeover targets

As their economy stumbles in and out of recession and the pound weakens against almost everything but the Green-back, the UK telecoms market must look like a great place to pick up bargains if you're a service provider looking to break into the European market. 
See this article in Global Telecoms Business that we contributed to recently; complete with diagram showing the fragmented nature of UK IP access market.

If I were TATA, SingTel or China Telecom I would start by acquiring key assets in the UK.  Especially where there was access to international submarine cabling.


For those of you not familiar with the history of UK telecoms: Deregulation in the late 1980's, followed by early adoption of Internet, as an alternative to Frame-Relay or ATM networks, led to tens of billions of $'s being invested in Fiber Networks up and down the country around most major cities by extremely well funded startups.   There was also massive investment by the likes of Global Crossing, Verizon, Cable & Wireless and AT&T in sub-marine cabling linking the UK to the US, Europe, the Middle East and Africa

After the euphoria of the 90's tech bubble 'run-riot' abated most of these companies went bust and there assets were acquired for very little from the liquidators, and they've since been run as profitable low overhead.

This has however left the market extremely fragmented with a large amount of highly valuable infrastructure split amongst a myriad of small (in xSP terms).  We recently saw a Service Provider in London with a metropolitan fibre network that would probably cost £100m to replace sold for about £7m crazy, but that's UK accounting :0)

But surely this stuff is available in mainland Europe!  Well to a lesser extent yes but the UKs regulatory environment is more friendly, I cannot imagine the French or German Governments allowing key national infrastructure to be sold off to foreign companies - whereas the UK seems to positively revel in overseas ownership of utilities.  See T-Orange merger

Global Telecoms Business is a good source of markets information - we'd recommend taking a look at their site.

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