Thursday, January 19, 2006

Let's go buy some more network

Well, as I expected, we may be off to the M&A races again in 2006, as EuroTelcoland strives in its relentless pursuit of Universal Mutual Annihilation. Belgacom CEO Didier Bellens receives both French and Flemish news coverage today, saying he's interested in either a broadband player in a neighboring country or a mobile player in a market with remaining growth potential. He concedes the company might be interested in Neuf Cegetel, France's number 2 DSL player, which has aspirations of expanding its MVNO presence beyond the SME space. This would seem to fit Belgacom's criteria pretty well on both counts. However, it's once again tempting to look at this and say that telcos prefer to continue buying network in the absence of really transformative ideas.

The stock has not responded well to the news (down 3% at this point), and separately, Reuters is reporting claims by one analyst at the company's analyst dinner in London last night that the company stated consensus EBITDA margin forecasts for the fixed line division in 2006 were too high. This is the second time this week a company has been linked to stories of "stealth guidance" (the other being Telecom Italia, which issued a press statement denying such allegations).

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