Friday, June 16, 2006

The semimadre goes to Spain

The half-mother (semimadre) of Lattelecom, TeliaSonera, has bought 80 % of the Spanish mobile operator Xfera with the intent to fully develop its 3G mobile services. Xfera actually doesn't do anything yet (except keep a 3G licence in hand), which is why the move led to a plunge of TeliaSonera shares on the Stockholm Stock Exchange once the deal was announced. Press reports say TeliaSonera will put up to SEK 9 billion into the fledgling operator to get 3G services up and running across Spain.
What is interesting for us is that the semimadre seems to be reaching south rather than east across the Baltic, where, according to the word on the street, further talks on the Latvian Mobile Telephone (LMT) for Lattelecom and cash swap have made no progress. The government troika has not met on the matter and no progress has been made in naming an appraiser to set values for all the companies involved in the deal.
Behind the Xfera deal is a man with a forehead bloodied by battering at the doors of the Latvian government, TeliaSonera's Baltic/Nordic honcho Kenneth Karlberg. There are a number of versions about this. One is that the Swedes are tired of Karlberg's fruitless pounding and have somewhat rethought their Baltic/Eastern strategy. They asked Kenneth to open a southern front and he did.
Having done that, Karlberg may be a step closer to moving up the ladder to replace the main honcho at TeliaSonera, Anders Igel should he retire or be eased out. Whether the Xfera deal flies may be an important test for Kenneth. (this is, of course, all mutterings and rumors after drinking beers and Asbach Uralt at the office after work today).
Should that happen, I don't think Kenneth will forget the Baltic home market (like a home where you don't have a key to one of the doors :) ), but he will seek medium-risk opportunities wherever they come up, at least in Europe. Lattelecom is most likely written off, and LMT will come along in due time, I would say, 2008, when the dust (and dried manure) from the elections settles and the new baboon pride settles into its cages. By then, competition may have knocked a few corners off LMT, giving good reason to cut its appraisal price a bit, while the possible success of Lattelecom's new strategy of becoming a business process utility and media portal will have increased its barter value. In other words, letting Lattelecom do what it pleases, even if it disrupts the semimadre's own plans, may be the best way to increase the value of the 49 % of Lattelecom owned by the Swedes. More about that in a subsequent post.
The next post may come from my summer cottage, where a test of Triatel's EVDO internet link is proving initially satisfactory, with the claimed 1 Mbps link getting anywhere between 256 and 600 Kbps, about the same real world fluctuating performance as my Lattelecom Apollo HomeDSL line in the Riga apartment (though generally the DSL tries to stay close to 1 Mbps).

Music: none
Recreational substances: Aldaris Legenda Beer (two bottles) and around 100 grams of Asbach much earlier this evening.

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