Nokia Oyj is holding talks on acquiring smaller telecom equipment maker Alcatel-Lucent, a deal that would combine the industry’s two weakest players but could pose challenges in cutting costs and overcoming political opposition.
In a joint announcement, the Finnish and French companies said they were in “advanced discussions” on a “full combination, which would take the form of a public exchange offer by Nokia for Alcatel-Lucent.” The two, which have been seen as a possible combination for the last several years, cautioned that the discussions could still fall apart.
Shares in Alcatel, a group worth about 11 billion euros based on Monday’s closing share price, rose 12.6 percent on Tuesday morning. Shares in Nokia, worth about 29 billion euros, dropped 6.6 percent.
The pair are a good fit in terms of products and geographies, and bulking up would help them cut costs as they try to catch up with leaders Sweden’s Ericsson and China’s Huawei. Nokia would expand its presence in the key United States market where Alcatel-Lucent is a major supplier to operators AT&T and Verizon.
But the track record of mergers in the industry is spotty, in part because of the difficulties of cutting costs in a R&D intensive business where companies cannot simply drop products that global telecom operators rely on.
The last round, which gave birth to Alcatel-Lucent and combined Nokia’s networks business with Siemens about a decade ago, saw both firms destroy value and lose market share as rivals went on the attack while they were busy integrating the businesses.
The French government may also step in to protect jobs in what is seen as a critical sector for the national economy.
A person at the Economy Ministry said the government wanted more information about the rationale behind the deal and whether it could create a European champion, as well as the impact on French employees.
Nokia is mulling over the idea of selling its maps business known as HERE, a source familiar with the matter said late last week, pushing up shares in the Finnish company as well as its network gear rival Alcatel-Lucent.
After the exit from handsets, analysts have seen little synergies between the map unit and Nokia’s mainstay network gear business. Nokia has hired a financial adviser to explore a sale of the unit, the source added.
Bloomberg first reported news of the sale on Friday.
A Nokia spokeswoman declined to comment.
Shares in Nokia closed 5.57 percent higher while those in France’s Alcatel-Lucent closed 4.82 percent higher. The two companies have reportedly held on and off merger talks in recent years.
Shares in Dutch navigation company TomTom surged more than 11 percent after the news broke.
“We have estimated that HERE’s value is around 3.3-4.8 billion euros, and in a possible deal the price should be more than that,” Inderes Equity Research said on its Twitter account.
Nokia sold its once-dominant phone handset business to Microsoft last year, leaving it with its core network equipment business, HERE as well as its patent division.
HERE last year had net sales of around 969 million euros with an operating profit of 31 million euros. The unit has signed several orders from the car industry recently.
In 11 of the 12 countries surveyed as part of a report published by Microsoft, respondents said that technology’s effect on privacy was mostly negative. Most concerned were people in Japan and France, where 68 percent of the respondents thought technology has had a mostly negative impact on privacy.
A majority want better legal protections and say the rights of Internet users should be governed by local laws irrespective of where companies are based.
Internet users in India, Indonesia and Russia were the least concerned, according to the survey. In general, those in developing countries were less bothered.
Surveys like this one should always be looked at with a healthy dose of skepticism. But there is little doubt that people are wary of how their personal data is used by companies and governments, according to John Phelan, communications officer at European consumer organization BEUC.
That people shouldn’t take privacy for granted has been highlighted on several occasions in just the last week.
Shortly after the horrific Paris shootings, British Prime Minister David Cameron was criticized for saying that authorities should have the means to read all encrypted traffic.
Also, U.S. mobile operator Verizon Wireless found itself in hot water over the way one of its advertising partners used the Unique Identifier Headers Verizon embeds in its customers’ Internet traffic to recreate tracking cookies that had been deleted by users. Online advertising company Turn defended its practises, but still said on Friday it would stop using the method by next month.
Worries about privacy aren’t likely to subside anytime soon, with more devices becoming connected as part of the expected Internet of Things boom.
The “Views from Around the Globe: 2nd Annual Poll on How Personal Technology is Changing our Lives” survey queried 12,002 Internet users in the U.S., China, India, Brazil, Indonesia, South Africa, South Korea, Russia, Germany, Turkey, Japan and France.
A year ago, LTE-Advanced was only available in South Korea, but it’s now available in 31 countries (including Australia, France, Germany, U.K. and the U.S.) and more are on the way, according to industry organization GSA (Global mobile Suppliers Association).
“There is a lot of activity at the moment,” said Alan Hadden, president at GSA.
LTE-Advanced is a collection of different technologies, but the one mobile operators are implementing first is called carrier aggregation. It lets operators treat up to three radio channels in different frequency bands as if they were one and send data to users at higher speeds.
Bandwidths at up to 300Mbps are possible, though not all LTE-Advanced networks and devices can muster that. For example, Apple’s new iPhones use a version of carrier aggregation that tops out at 150Mbps, and not all operators have the spectrum to offer that.
However, regardless of which version of LTE-Advanced a network or device supports, the technology offers users higher speeds than ever before.
Chances are greater that you’ll get access to LTE-Advanced if you live in a big city. For example, U.S. operator AT&T has so far upgraded its network in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Miami, Honolulu, Chicago, Oklahoma City, Dallas and Houston.
The technology has been held back due to a lack of supporting devices, but that will change this year thanks to a greater variety of modems from Qualcomm and Intel.
Mobile messaging platform WhatsApp has amassed more than 700 million monthly active users and appears to be on track to reach 1 billion in about a year, a target Facebook set when it acquired the company in 2014.
The announcement comes about 11 months after Facebook acquired the app for $16 billion, a move that reflected the importance that Facebook places on mobile users.
The latest WhatsApp milestone is significant because it also highlights the recent rise of messaging apps as a more popular and economical option than SMS text messaging, which has suffered declines of nearly 5% in countries such as the U.K. In France operators saw SMS traffic on Jan. 1 decline by 10% to 20% compared to last year, while the use of MMS, messaging apps and other data traffic rose, according to local media.
“We’re thrilled to share that WhatsApp has more than 700 million monthly active users,” CEO and co-founder Jan Koum wrote in a post on Facebook. “Additionally, every day our users now send over 30 billion messages.”
Facebook’s acquisition of WhatsApp received European regulatory approval in October following a U.S. nod in April. At its close, the deal was worth about $21.8 billion due to Facebook stock gains.
When the acquisition was announced in February 2014, WhatsApp had over 450 million monthly users, 70% of whom accessed the app on a daily basis.
WhatsApp has been steadily growing by about 25 million users per month. Itannounced April 22 that it had passed the half-billion mark, with new users in countries including Brazil, India, Mexico and Russia. In December 2013 it had 400 million users.
WhatsApp’s growth pace suggests it will reach 1 billion about a year from now, in December or January. When the acquisition was announced, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed hopes that WhatsApp would hit that threshold.
Google is reportedly looking to save itself from the worst excesses of a US antitrust case concerning the Android operating system.
Google has some experience of antitrust cases and we imagine that it would be very easy to grow to dislike them.
Reuters reports that Google would like to avoid the antitrust investigation over Android, and has already attempted to get the courts to join it in this sentiment.
Two smartphone users have raised the case against the firm because they feel that home-grown Google-developed apps are given preferential treatment at the expense of competing apps from companies like Samsung and Microsoft when it comes to placement on the operating system.
We have asked Google if it would like to comment on the progress of the class action suit, but the firm has so far declined. It has reportedly argued that its operating system does not limit the choice presented to consumers.
This has led to talk of an enforced breakup at the European regulatory level, and just recently the European Parliament voted in favor of dismantling the Google business.
Google declined to comment on that vote, but the talk was that high ups at the firm were “furious”, which is to say pretty angry indeed.
Amazon, which had been in discussions with Simon & Schuster since July over pricing, confirmed the deal first reported by the Business Insider news blog that the two had reached an agreement.
Amazon had been locked in a months-long standoff with publisher Hachette Book Group, the fourth-largest U.S. book publisher owned by France’s Lagardere, over digital book pricing. That has led to numerous issues for authors.
Industry experts had expected other publishers eventually to be drawn into negotiations as well, as the Internet retailer tries to set new benchmarks for the e-book market.
Negotiations with Simon & Schuster took about three weeks and closed two months before Amazon’s contract expired, according to Business Insider.
Simon & Schuster made its original offer and an agreement was reached after a few changes by Amazon, the source told Business Insider.
The move by Groupe BPCE, France’s second largest bank by customers, coincides with Twitter’s own foray into the world of online payments as the social network seeks new sources of revenue beyond advertising.
Twitter is racing other tech giants Apple and Facebook to get a foothold in new payment services for mobile phones or apps. They are collaborating and, in some cases, competing with banks and credit card issuers that have run the business for decades.
The bank said last month it was prepared to offer simple person-to-person money transfers via Twitter to French consumers, regardless of what bank they use, and without requiring the sender know the recipient’s banking details.
“(S-Money) offers Twitter users in France a new way to send each other money, irrespective of their bank and without having to enter the beneficiary’s bank details, with a simple tweet,” Nicolas Chatillon, chief executive of S-Money, BPCE’s mobile payments unit, said in the statement.
Payment by tweets will be managed via the bank’s S-Money service, which allows money transfers via text message and relies on the credit-card industry’s data security standards.
BPCE and Twitter declined to provide further details ahead of a news conference in Paris later today to unveil the service.
Last month, Twitter started trials of its own new service, dubbed “Twitter Buy”, to allow consumers to find and buy products on its social network.
The service embeds a “Twitter Buy” button inside tweets posted by more than two dozen stores, music artists and non-profits. Burberry, Home Depot, and musicians such as Pharrell and Megadeth are among the early vendors.
Twitter’s role to date has been to connect customers rather than processing payments or checking their identities.
Jourova said that a suspension of the arrangement is a distinct possibility, according to a report on Reuters that has access to her written answers.
“Suspension is certainly an option on the table for me,” she said. “But we are not yet there.”
The Safe Harbour arrangement has been around since the start of this century and is designed to provide securities for people whose data may be moving between territories.
This is OK locally, but since PRISM and all that Europeans have struggled to trust the US, its companies, its security policies and its government. The EU has asked the US to keep its national security data requests to a fair and not too intrusive minimum.
“Allow me to give this another push and to continue working in a constructive spirit with the US building on the progress made so far, while insisting that a higher level of ambition is shown and must materialise in practice,” added Jourova in her answers.
According to a separate report on the Euractiv news site, Jourova is not the only person to be making such noises.
The report says that the commissioner-designate for the Digital Internal Market, Andrus Ansip, who has wide support in the European Parliament, wants tighter controls on data sharing, and a lot more trust in the US.
“As a liberal, I believe in personal rights. We must protect everyone’s privacy. Data protection will be an important cornerstone of the Digital Internal Market. The citizens must have trust in this project,” he said.
“Safe Harbour is not secure. The agreement has yet to live up to its name. If the US government does not make a clear statement, we must consider suspending the agreement.”
The reports, issued by the International Energy Agency (IEA), stated that by 2050, PV panels could produce 16% of the world’s electricity, while solar thermal electricity (STE) is on track to produce 11%. Solar thermal electricity is created by concentrating the sun’s rays to produce steam, which then turns a turbine.
Photovoltaic panels capable of producing 137 billion watts (gigawatts) of power have been installed worldwide since the end of 2013, according to the IEA, a Paris-based agency that advises on global energy consumption.
Perhaps just as important, solar power could reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 6 billion tons over the next four decades, the reports state.
Rooftop solar panels will account for half of the world’s solar PV installations because as a distributed energy source, the technology is “unbeatable,” the report said.
In the U.S., solar power capacity for producing electricity has grown six-fold since 2010, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), a federal agency that provides information about the nation’s energy production across all markets.
Meanwhile, the IEA’s report indicates the cost of solar power worldwide is expected to drop to four cents per kilowatt hour (kWh) by 2050. In the U.S.,electricity costs about 13 cents per kilowatt hour for residential power and seven cents for industrial power.
IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven stressed in a statement that her agency’s two reports do not represent a forecast. As with other IEA technology roadmaps, they detail the expected technology improvement targets and the policy actions required to achieve those goals by 2050.
However, van der Hoeven noted that the cost of solar system hardware is rapidly declining.
French budget-conscious telecom operator Iliad has set a mid-October deadline to decide whether to improve its bid for T-Mobile US or walk away as it faces resistance from seller Deutsche Telekom, several people familiar with the situation said.
Deutsche Telekom, which owns 66 percent of the fourth-largest U.S. carrier, has doubts that Iliad will be able to improve the U.S. business since the French startup has no track record in the country, a source close to the German company’s management said.
Under the deal structure proposed by Iliad, Deutsche Telekom would have to keep a stake in the combined company.
Iliad is currently in talks with several U.S. banks to help it finance a possible improved bid for T-Mobile US alongside existing lenders HSBC and BNP Paribas, the people familiar with the situation said, after a $33 per share offer for 56.6 percent of T-Mobile US was rejected by Deutsche Telekom.
Chief Financial Officer Thomas Reynaud said Iliad’s key leverage ratio would not surpass 4.5 times net debt to earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA). He also said that Iliad would limit any capital increase to fund the T-Mobile bid to 2 billion euros ($2.57 billion).
Iliad is also seeking to team up with private equity funds including KKR to raise about $5-6.5 billion, the sources, who could not be named because the talks are private, said.
T-Mobile US, Iliad and KKR declined to comment. Deutsche Telekom could not be reached immediately for comment.
Iliad’s management team has now finished road shows to meet U.S. investors and is waiting to hear back from potential investors, the sources said.
Depending on how positive the feedback is from private equity investors, the French firm could be able to table an improved bid in the second week of October, two of the sources said.
Iliad could offer between $35 and $40 per share for a stake in T-Mobile of between 60 percent and 90 percent, depending on the appetite of private equity funds and lenders for the deal, two other sources said.
The open letter is signed by Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford and addressed to Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the internet community. Langsford asks Netflix to Australia through the front door. He accuses it of ignoring backdoor access to its services, hauling in cash and stepping on Australian rightsholders.
“Netflix not only knowingly collects revenues from subscribers with unauthorised access to your US service, investing nothing in the Australian market nor paying for Australian rights to the content you make available, but also tacitly encourages Australian consumers to inadvertently breach the copyright of the content owners,” he said.
“Unlike yourself, Quickflix has obtained all necessary Australian rights to the content on its platform, faithfully meets all necessary security requirements, including geo-filtering imposed by the content rights holders, and continues to reinvest in its service with the goal of offering the very best service in the market to its customers.”
We have asked Netflix to comment on this, but so far it has not responded.
Langsford made some suggestions to Hastings about getting Netflix’s game in order, starting with a legal launch and a VPN lockdown.
“We challenge Netflix to play by the rules. It’s how we do it here in Australia. Stop turning a blind eye to the VPN services acting as a gateway to your service. Be honest and face up to the issue of unauthorised access to your US service,” he said in his sign off.
“Have the courage to limit your service only to the territories where you have legally obtained the rights to operate by abiding by the geo-filtering obligations required by your content license agreements. And do so immediately.”
The Quickflix CEO said that he looked forward to fair and square competition and the resulting benefits to Australians.
Cox Communications Inc. is not interested in merging with wireless carrier T-Mobile US Inc or rival cable providers, according to Cox President Pat Esser, dispelling rumors recently swirling about the private company.
“We’re not in any discussions to buy T-Mobile,” Esser told Reuters. “I don’t see a movement inside of our company that we feel like we have to pony up or match up with a wireless company.”
Asked whether Cox, the third-largest U.S. cable and broadband company, was considering a merger with one of its smaller cable rivals, such as Charter Communications Inc or perennial takeover target Cablevision Systems Corp, Esser said family-owned Cox was not looking to become a publicly traded company.
“I would never say we’ll never be public in the future. But right now where the family’s at, where [parent company] Cox Enterprises is at, they like being private,” Esser said. “We have a very, very healthy balance sheet, we have a lot of capacity and we can do most of that inside of our current balance sheet and still remain private.”
Continuing a year marked by a whirlwind of dealmaking among telecom companies, sources told Reuters earlier this month that Iliad, a French telecom firm, was in talks with U.S. satellite and cable operators Cox, Charter and Dish Networks Corp regarding a potential joint bid for U.S. wireless carrier T-Mobile.
Esser said that instead, he saw the future of Cox Communications in wi-fi offerings and connectivity services, such as home security.
“Wireless use of broadband is growing but it’s not through traditional cellular services, it’s wi-fi. Wi-fi is exploding,” Esser said. “Wi-fi is the future … Connected homes are the future.”
Security software expert and on-the-run murder suspect, John McAfee has taken time from his busy schedule to warn the world about the perils of Googling.
McAfee has called upon people to resist Google to protect their privacy saying that the search engine appears to believe that if people have nothing to hide they have nothing to fear.
“If everybody knew everything about everybody else, what would human behaviour become? You need to think this through,” he said.
He said that people could not have intrusions into our lives and still have freedom. McAfee added that Freedom was all he had.
“And it’s all you have, if you think about it.”
We thought about it and came to the conclusion that we have a lot of things which are not defined by the fact that Google can see us. But hey, we don’t have Belize wanting us to help them with their inquiries.
Firmware is a type of software that manages interactions between higher-level software and the underlying hardware, though it can sometimes be the only software on a device. It’s found on all kinds of computer hardware, though the study focused on embedded systems such as printers, routers and security cameras.
Researchers with Eurecom, a technology-focused graduate school in France, developed a web crawler that plucked more than 30,000 firmware images from the websites of manufacturers including Siemens, Xerox, Bosch, Philips, D-Link, Samsung, LG and Belkin.
They found a variety of security issues, including poorly-protected encryption mechanisms and backdoors that could allow access to devices. More than 123 products contained some of the 38 vulnerabilities they found, which they reported privately to vendors.
They’re due to present their research next week at the 23rd Usenix Security Symposium in San Diego.
Most of the firmware they analyzed is in consumer devices, a competitive arena where companies often release products quickly to stay ahead of rivals, said Aurelien Francillon, a coauthor of the study and an assistant professor in the networking and security department at Eurecom.
“You have to be first and cheap,” Francillon said in a phone interview. “All of those things are what you should not do if you want a secure device.”
Firmware security practices lag far behind those of the PC software market, where vendors like Microsoft learned the hard way that they need to patch software automatically on a regular, frequent schedule.
That’s often not the case with firmware, which may not be designed to patch itself periodically and also relies heavily on third-party software that may not be current. In one instance, the researchers found a Linux kernel that was 10 years out of date bundled in a recently released firmware image.
“On these devices, it’s a real nightmare,” Francillon said.