Could Austria be the ONE for KPN?

25 May 2007

KPN of the Netherlands is considering a bid for Austrian mobile operator ONE, it said in a statement yesterday. The former Dutch monopoly has long made it known that it would consider expansion possibilities into other European markets where opportunities exist to capitalise on fixed-mobile substitution. E.ON is rumoured to be looking to sell its 50.1% stake in the Austrian unit, but any deal proposed by KPN could be complicated by France Télécom’s involvement in ONE. The French giant already owns a 17.45% equity stake in the cellco and has pre-emptive rights to purchase the stake. ONE’s shareholders – Telenor and TDC – meanwhile, are tied by complex agreements concerning pre-emptive rights to buy and rights to meet any external offer. KPN will also have to consider whether it makes sense to buy into a business that is the number three player in the small and competitive Austrian mobile market. According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms database, at the end of December 2006 the five mobile operators – Mobilkom Austria, T-Mobile, tele.ring, Hutchison 3G and ONE – had a total 9.04 million subscribers between them, a cellular penetration of 110%.