Tuesday, August 02, 2005

An open plea to Charles Dunstone

There's an old joke which goes something like this:

A rude English tourist is in a restaurant in France and gets irritated by the imperious attitude of the waiter. He blurts out, "Bloody French, always putting on airs. 'Ere, what's so great about France? If you take away the art, the cuisine, the philosophy, the literature, the fashion, the beautiful women, what have you got left, tell me?" The waiter responds curtly, "England."

Over in the broadband paradise which is France (yet another reason for UK residents to feel resentful) Yannick has an impassioned plea for Carphone Warehouse to take over Iliad before it falls into the hands of an inept and backward looking telco. I agree, it's a sexy idea, but I can see two potential issues: 1) CW has traditionally not gone in for telecom businesses involving a lot of network infrastructure; 2) CW is only capitalized at EUR2.35bn at current exchange rates, while Iliad's market cap is EUR1.88bn. An outright takeover would either involve a massive amount of leverage or a lot of CW paper, which I doubt Iliad shareholders would want. Sadly, I think this one may fall to an incumbent, and my bets would be on Teutonic or Iberian players.

UPDATE: A Platinum Circle reader subsequently writes in to challenge my statement on network assets, pointing out that CW's Opal unit carries a lot of CPS traffic in the UK. I had a feeling someone would make that point - what I should have said was that CW has previously avoided owning assets at the local loop level, as well as the kind of CPE/inventory issues involved in the kind of model which Iliad operates with Free.

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