TeliaSonera looking to take control of Xfera

19 May 2006

The largest shareholders of troubled Spanish 3G start-up Xfera are finalising an agreement aimed at avoiding the government revoking the company’s UMTS licence, according to business publication Expansion, citing unnamed sources. Scandinavian telco TeliaSonera is in talks to acquire the stake in Xfera held by Spanish construction company Actividades de Construcción y Servicios (ACS) via a capital increase, Expansion claims. The deal would give TeliaSonera control of the company and precede its much-delayed rollout of 3G services. ACS is reportedly negotiating with the government in a bid to extend Xfera’s launch deadline to allow the deal to go through.

Earlier this month it was reported that Spain’s Industry Ministry was drafting a report outlining various ways in which the UMTS licence awarded to Xfera in 2000 can be revoked, because the state does not believe that the company will be able to comply with its deadline set to start operations by 30 June. Last month it was reported that Xfera was in talks to form a strategic partnership with Egypt’s Orascom Telecom in a last ditch attempt to get its UMTS network up and running, but neither party has since commented on their progress. In the meantime, Xfera has lowered its investments and frozen the development of its network, and reduced its workforce in an attempt to cut costs following its unsuccessful quest for a strategic partner. Talks with Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa amounted to nothing, but Xfera says it will continue to look for an alliance with three potentially interested parties.

TeliaSonera and ACS currently hold 34.18% of Xfera jointly, while ACS has a separate 17.95% stake and TeliaSonera an extra 2.23%. Other core Spanish shareholders in Xfera include Corp Alba (11.72%), Abertis Infrastructuras (8.4%), Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (7.75%) and Abengoa (5.4%).

Spain, Xfera Moviles (Yoigo)