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MTN to sponsor English Premier League in Africa

Middle East and Africa operator MTN said it has signed a three-year broadcast sponsorship of the English Premier League (English Premiership) in Africa, after being the first and only African global sponsor for the recent World Cup in South Africa. CMO Santie Botha said the three-season deal, the value of which has not been disclosed, from 2010/11 to 2012/13 will see the operator sponsor SuperSport’s English Premiership broadcasts in South Africa and the rest of Africa as well as Canal+’s French broadcasts of the League in Africa. MTN will also sponsor the broadcasts of some of the best European league matches, specifically Bundesliga and La Liga.

GMT, VSS sell German cable operator Pepcom to Star Capital

Private equity investors GMT Communications Partners and Veronis Suhler Stevenson (VSS) have sold German cable network operator Pepcom to UK-based investor Star Capital Partners for an undisclosed sum. Pepcom is Germany’s sixth-largest cable network operator, with more than 630,000 subscribers of video, broadband and voice services. Both GMT and VSS were the control investors in Pepcom, holding equal stakes in the company amounting to an 81 percent interest, with the remaining 19 percent in the hands of Pepcom’s senior management and other individual shareholders. Under the terms of the agreement, senior management will roll-over a substantial part of their proceeds into the new investment vehicle controlled by Star. Set up as a platform investment designed to consolidate the fragmented German cable TV market, VSS and GMT built Pepcom through organic growth and the completion of 12 bolt-on acquisitions, targeting fully integrated regional networks in small towns where a strong market position existed. These included the 2005 purchase of Bavarian cable network operator Kabelfernsehen M√ľnchen ServiCenter (KMS), which more than doubled Pepcom’s business.

Oracle sues Google for Android patent infringement

Oracle has sued Google for patent and copyright infringement with its Android operating system. The lawsuit, filed in US federal court in San Francisco, accuses Google of breaching seven patents that Oracle assumed when it acquired Sun Microsystems earlier this year, the Financial Times reports. The patents relate to the Java software, which Sun developed so that developers could write applications that can run on many different operating systems. Eric Schmidt, Google’s CEO and a former CTO at Sun, once headed the Java development team. In a statement, Oracle said that Google had “knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property.” Parts of the Java technology were included in the stack of software that makes up Android, according to Oracle. The lawsuit marks Oracle’s first attempt to exert its rights over Java since it acquired Sun in January.

Indian govt gives 31 August deadline for BlackBerry solution

Research In Motion’s encrypted BlackBerry e-mail and instant messaging services will be shut down in India if the company does not address national security concerns by 31 August. The ultimatum was issued after senior officials from government, intelligence and state-run telecom operators met to discuss how to gain access to the content. The Indian government said in a statement that if its demands were not met phone operators would be required by law to close the encrypted BlackBerry Enterprise e-mail and Messenger services running through their networks, Reuters reported. A shutdown would affect around 1 million BlackBerry users in India. “RIM has assured us they will come with some solution. It remains to be seen whether they address our security concerns,” a senior internal security official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters. India wants access in a readable format to encrypted BlackBerry communication, on grounds it could be used by militants. Indian officials say RIM had proposed tracking emails without sharing encryption details, but that was not enough. RIM officials met India’s interior minister separately on 12 August, a government source said. There were no more details.

Orascom Telecom posts net loss, H1 revenue up 1%

Orascom Telecom’s revenues for the first half reached USD 2.05 billion, increasing by 1 percent over H1 2009 as a result of strong growth in most of its GSM operations. With the inclusion of Eygptian operator Mobinil, which is not consolidated due to the change in its shareholders agreement with France Telecom, revenues would have reached USD 2.49 billion. The Q2 revenues increased by 7 percent compared to Q1. Total subscribers exceeded 99 million (including Mobinil), an increase of 18 percent over the same period last year. EBITDA reached USD 878 million, stable over H1 2009 mainly as a result of a weak performance in Algeria countered by strong performances in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Tunisia and North Korea. With the inclusion of Mobinil, EBITDA would have reached USD 1.06 billion. The Q2 EBITDA increased by 1 percent over Q1. Group EBITDA margin was stable year-on-year at 42.9 percent. Net profit before minority interests for the first half stood at USD 17 million, while net income attributable to equity holders was a net loss of USD 17 million, versus a profit of USD 183 million a year ago. This loss was due to unrealized foreign exchange losses of USD 120 million from the USD 3.5 billion debt at the company, as well as higher financing costs, impairment charges and a gain in the year-earlier period for the sale of M-Link. Group CEO Khaled Bichara said the first half demonstrated stable growth for most of the operations, supported by a trend of high additions to various customer bases. In comparison to Q1, he said the second quarter boosted subscriber levels and showed a slight alleviation of competitive pressures. He said the fourth quarter disruptions in Algeria have began to subside at Djezzy, which displayed 6 percent sequential revenue growth in Q2, while the situation in Egypt witnessed significant improvement after the agreements concluded with France Telecom.

Vimpelcom may swap stake for Wind, Orascom Telecom

Russian operator Vimpelcom could acquire Italian operator Wind and 51 percent of Orascom Telecom, both controlled by Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris, in a deal worth USD 6.5 billion in cash and shares, Russian paper Kommersant reported. This would give Sawiris and his associates 20-23 percent of Vimpelcom, according to an unnamed source close to the deal. Vimpelcom declined to comment. Vimpelcom’s main shareholders, Telenor and Alfa Group, would see their stakes drop to 27 and 35 percent, from respectively 36.03 and 44.65 percent currently.

Peru to cut mobile telephony tariffs by 53%

Mobile telephony tariffs in Peru will drop by 36 to 53 percent, according to Peru’s minister of transport and communications Enrique Cornejo. The price reduction will come into force on 4 September, with the implementation of the Mobile Virtual Area, which eliminates national long-distance codes. According to Cornejo, mobile tariffs will drop by PEN 0.50, from the current PEN 1.50 per minute to PEN 1 per minute. The so-called Mobile Virtual Area will allow users to make calls to mobile numbers directly from a fixed, mobile or public payphone, marking the nine digits of the destination number without introducing the code of the city where this is located.

Navteq launches mobile marketing platform to US broadcasters

Traffic and location data provider Navteq has launched the Navteq Mobile Marketing Platform to US TV and radio broadcasters. The self-serve Mobile Marketing Platform enables broadcasters to cross-market programme and advertising content to mobile phone users, such as special offers, coupons, sweepstakes and loyalty programmes. Navteq’s Mobile Marketing Platform helps broadcasters create and manage a range of consumer engagement activities, including creation and deployment of applications, mobile websites, and opt-in SMS campaigns. The Mobile Marketing Platform is the marketing counterpoint to Navteq’s LocationPoint advertising service, which delivers advertisements to GPS-connected consumers as they approach points of purchase and guides them to nearby retailers.

Maxcom up for sale

Mexican operator Maxcom Telecomunicaciones is up for sale. Maxcom said in a filing with the Mexican Stock Exchange that it has studied strategic options and has had talks with other market participants since the company was founded in 1996. Maxcom “remains open to having conversations,” but at the moment has not reached an agreement on any sort of deal, the company said. The operator is seeking bids from Telefonica and Vivendi, Bloomberg reports, citing two people with knowledge of the situation. According to the same sources, the tender is being run by Barclays Capital, who declined to be identified because the process is not public. Maxcom plans to seek offers in September, and potential bidders may include Telefonica and Vivendi, as well as Mexican companies Megacable Holdings, Axtel, Alestra and Grupo Televisa, said one of the sources. Megacable CEO Enrique Yamuni said in an e-mail statement that he is not currently interested in the Maxcom acquisition.

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Apple to rebrand TV box as iTV

Apple is repapring to launch a new TV box and change its branding to iTV from Apple TV, Engadget reports. The set-top box will sell for USD 99 and offer similar specs to the iPhone 4, with the A4 processor and 16GB flash storage. However, video playback will be limited to 720p. Apple plans new streaming services on iTunes that can be used on the box, as well as dedicated apps for the device on the App Store. The device should be unveiled in the autumn, with a return to the original branding of iTV.