Looking Back at 2013’s M&As: International Edition

December 30th, 2013 by · Leave a Comment

In this final installment of Ramblings’ review of M&A activity in 2013, we look at the international stage. Indeed, that’s where the real action was in both raw size and media coverage, with wireless taking the stage in a big way. But there were also some interesting infrastructure deals around the world that shouldn’t be forgotten.

The year began with the complicated soap opera that saw Japan’s Softbank duel very publicly with Dish over Sprint and Clearwire, with the finale of the MetroPCS purchase by Deutsche Telekom’s US unit T-Mobile USA in parallel. Of course, both deals were announced in the fall of 2012, but their conclusions were anything but perfunctory, and kept the drama flowing for the whole first half of the year. In the end, however, Softbank and T-Mobile each made good on their purchases, though not without bringing a few more dollars to the table. So 2013 saw newly minted Japanese control over not only the #3 US wireless provider, but also Sprint’s shrinking but still very substantial global networking business. And while the German incumbent DT’s US wireless presence may be diluted, but it does seem to have regained substantial momentum.

No sooner had that wound down than rumors of Verizon’s blockbuster purchase of the rest of Verizon Wireless from Vodafone for $130B started to really heat up and then finally were actually realized in September. It was truly gigantic in a financial sense and changed the potential M&A landscape worldwide in a single stroke, but on the ground little changes for Verizon Wireless itself.

Those two deals overshadowed some big deals over in Europe. Vodafone itself announced a $10B deal for Kabel Deutschland, Telefonica made its play for E-Plus, and of course America Movil and Carlos Slim bid for the rest of KPN but were rebuffed for now.

But at the European regional infrastructure level there were some other interesting moves that reflect a trend that may continue into 2014. The largest saw Deutsche Telekom agree to buy GTS Central Europe, adding a deep fiber footprint in Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Romania and additional routes throughout the region. Meanwhile, the Irish metro operator e|net sold out to private equity, Viatel finally found a home with Irish-based Digiweb, and Hibernia Networks added global IP backbone with the purchase of Atrato IP Networks.

In the Americas outside the USA it was less busy, but not entirely quiet. Canada’s MTS found a buyer for its Allstream network division in the Egyptian Tycoon Naguib Sawiris, but that deal has apparently foundered on regulatory concerns. Along the US-Mexico border Transtelco bought its border-straddling competitor XC Networks, adding scale in an unique niche. And in Brazil, Oi is currently selling its GlobeNet submarine cable division to Brazilian private equity.

Elsewhere, 2013 saw AAPT find a new Australian home with TPG Telecom, while Liquid Telecom continued its expansion into East Africa.  I’m sure there are others that slipped past me, I get around but I don’t get everywhere.

In the category of deals that didn’t happen, India’s Reliance Communications still hasn’t managed to monetize Reliance Globalcom despite a fresh set of rumors involving Batelco and/or a variety of private equity groups of Middle Eastern origin.  I’m sure they’ll try again sooner or later after several years of false starts.

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Categories: Fiber Networks · Internet Backbones · Mergers and Acquisitions · Wireless

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