Thursday, September 25, 2008

Agilent Arranges $1.5 Billion Refinancing through Llyods

Lloyds TSB Bank plc agreed to refinance the current $1.5 billion repurchase obligation of Agilent Technologies World Trade Inc. Under the deal, Lloyds will, subject to specified conditions, purchase the preferred stock of an Agilent subsidiary with an aggregate liquidation preference of $1.5 billion from its current owner and to extend until Jan. 27, 2011 the date on which Agilent Technologies World Trade is required to repurchase that preferred stock. Under the new terms, Agilent will be obligated to make quarterly payments to Lloyds TSB at a rate per annum, reset quarterly, based on LIBOR plus 175 basis points.

Merrill Lynch & Co. acted as the exclusive structuring and arranging agent for the transaction. The deal is expected to close on November 17, 2008.

TeliaSonera Acquires Controlling Stakes in Mobile Operators in Nepal and Cambodia

TeliaSonera has acquired controlling interests in two mobile operators, Spice Nepal Private Limited in Nepal and Applifone Co Limited in Cambodia. Specifically, TeliaSonera will acquire 51 percent of the shares and votes in TeliaSonera Asia Holding B.V. from Visor Group that will remain owner of the other 49 percent. TeliaSonera Asia Holding B.V. owns 80 percent of the shares and votes in Spice Nepal, the second largest mobile operator in Nepal, and 100 percent of the shares and votes in Applifone, a start-up mobile operator in Cambodia. The total cash consideration to be paid by TeliaSonera is approximately SEK 3.2 billion (US$484 million), corresponding to 51 percent of the total equity value of TeliaSonera Asia Holding B.V.

  • Spice Nepal launched its operation in September 2005 and is the second largest mobile operator in Nepal, with around 1.6 million subscriptions and an estimated market share of approximately 41 percent as of August 2008. Spice Nepal's net sales in 2007 and for the first six months of 2008 were US$41.1 million and US$34.1 million, respectively, and EBITDA, excluding non-recurring items, was US$19.0 million and US$18.2 million, respectively. Mobile penetration in Nepal, with a population of 28.4 million, is approximately 13 percent.

  • Applifone launched its operation in October 2007 and is the fourth largest mobile operator in Cambodia, with some 97,500 subscriptions and an estimated market share of approximately 3 percent as of August 2008. Mobile penetration in Cambodia, with a population of 14.6 million, is approximately 21 percent.

TeliaSonera also holds majority stakes in major mobile operators in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Moldova, and through associated companies in Russia, Turkey, Ukraine and Belarus as well as in Afghanistan, through a financial holding.

"One of our top priorities is to grow our business in Eurasia, where we have successfully grown and created value over the past ten years. We now take a further important step in executing our strategy to expand into new high-growth emerging markets, following our successful investments in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Nepal and Cambodia have a combined population of 43 million, low mobile penetration and growing economies. I am excited about this opportunity," says Lars Nyberg, President and CEO of TeliaSonera AB.http://www.teliasonera.com

USDA Announces $342 Million in Rural Broadband, Telecommunications Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that broadband and telecommunications loans totaling more than $342 million are being awarded to 18 communications firms serving 22 states. The funds will help bring new and improved telecommunications services to rural residents and businesses. The loans are being made through the Rural Development Broadband Loan and Loan Guarantee Program, which provides low-interest loans to deploy broadband and telecommunications services to rural communities of 20,000 residents or less, with first priority going to areas without broadband. Rural Development is also providing funding through the Telecommunications Infrastructure Loan Program, which makes loans to local firms working to provide both voice and broadband services in areas with 5,000 or fewer citizens.

The USDA cited several examples of how the money is being spent. Fort Mojave Telecommunications, Inc. in Mojave Valley, Ariz., will use a $16.9 million Rural Development telecommunications loan to connect 60 subscribers, deploy 36 route miles of fiber and copper cables, make improvements and additions to its existing plant and construct a 2,000-square-foot warehouse on leased land on the Fort Mojave Reservation in the Arizona Village Exchange.

International Broadband Electric Communications, Inc., in Hokes Bluff, Ala., was selected to receive a $49.2 million loan to construct a broadband over power line (BPL) network. The company will partner with 13 electric utilities to provide BPL service in seven states to connect 62,143 subscribers. The states are Alabama, Indiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin. TCT West, Inc., Basin, Wyo., will use an $11.4 million Rural Development loan to construct a fiber-to-the-home system in Cody, Wyo., connect 7,278 subscribers and provide enhanced services to approximately 5,306 video and 9,823 voice subscribers.

AT&T Appoints TelMex's Jaime Chico Pardo to its Board

Jaime Chico Pardo has been appointed to AT&T's board of directors. He will serve on the AT&T board's audit committee.

Mr. Chico is chairman of Teléfonos de México, S.A.B. de C.V. (Telmex). He was appointed to his current position in 2006 as chairman of Telmex and co-chairman of IDEAL, a publicly listed company that invests and manages infrastructure assets in Latin America. Before then, he was vice chairman and CEO of Telmex, a position he held since 1995.

AT&T holds a 9.5 percent ownership position in Telmex and an 8.3 percent ownership position in América Móvil. John Stephens, senior vice president and controller for AT&T Inc., is a member of the board of directors of both companies. Ray Wilkins Jr., group president of Diversified Businesses for AT&T Inc., is a member of the board of directors of América Móvil. Larry Boyle, executive director-Financial Analysis for AT&T Inc., is a member of the board of directors of Telmex.

Singapore Chooses OpenNet for Next Gen Fiber Project

The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has selected the OpenNet consortium as its successful Network Company (NetCo).
OpenNet will be contracted to provide passive fibre grid services for Singapore's Next Generation National Broadband Network (NGNBN). OpenNet will be making use of existing ducts and other underlying infrastructure, thereby minimizing disruption to the public and enabling the network to reach homes and buildings nationwide by 2012.

The OpenNet consortium consists of Axia-Netmedia (30%), Singapore Telecommunications (30%), Singapore Press Holdings (25%) and SP Telecommunications Pte Ltd (15%).

OpenNet expects to complete the agreement contracting process with the IDA as planned within the next seven months and expects that the Singapore-wide fiber grid will be completed by June 2012. This fiber grid will be made available on equal terms at very compelling prices to any parties qualified by the IDA.

Art Price, Chairman and CEO, Axia NetMedia, said: "OpenNet's approach is future-proof with no compromises from either the technology or business structure perspectives for the passive segment of the network. I believe that Singapore will be the showcase for how compelling the no-conflict open access fibre-to-the-premise solution can be for end-users in metropolitan communities."

A key component of the solution involves OpenNet acquiring access to existing infrastructure through usage fees that vary
with the market adoption of OpenNet's services.

This is the first part of IDA's competitive RFP process for a complete Next Generation National Broadband Network. The second part is the provision of active broadband services over the fiber grid.

Some key elements of the project:

  • As the selected NetCo, OpenNet will design, build and operate the passive infrastructure of the Next Gen NBN that will be capable of delivering speeds of up to 1 Gbps and beyond.

  • The Government of Singapore will provide a grant of up to S$750 million to the NetCo to support the network rollout.

  • OpenNet will offer attractive wholesale prices of S$15 per month per residential fiber connection and S$50 per month per non-residential fiber connection, to the Operating Companies or OpCos. Such wholesale prices are expected to bring about competitive retail prices in the ultra-high speed broadband market.

  • To encourage premise owners to connect their homes and businesses to the network, OpenNet is required to waive installation charges for home and building owners when the network first reaches their premises.

  • Under a Universal Service Obligation, which will take effect from 2013, OpenNet will also fulfill all subsequent requests to install fibre termination points in homes, offices and buildings.

  • In its proposal, OpenNet will deploy and own all the fibre optic cables and offer wholesale dark fibre services to downstream operators on a non-discriminatory basis as set out in the RFP.

  • OpenNet will make use of relevant existing underlying passive infrastructure assets, such as ducts, manholes and exchanges, belonging to its partner, SingTel, to facilitate the deployment of its fibre network.

  • As part of OpenNet's proposal, SingTel has committed to transfer these underlying assets to a neutral party within 24 months of the NetCo's Contractual and Financial Close, or CFC in short. The CFC will take place within seven months of the project award (September 2008).

  • A neutral party, called the Asset Company or AssetCo, will be an independent and separately managed company. It will be owned by a registered business trust or will be structured in a similar manner to be approved by IDA. SingTel, as a member of OpenNet, has also committed to reduce its stake in this AssetCo within five years of the CFC and seek the relevant shareholders' and regulatory approvals, where required. As part of the successful close of the RFP, SingTel is also required to submit to IDA for approval, a detailed implementation plan on the formation of the AssetCo and subsequent partial divestment of its relevant underlying assets.

SingTel and Chunghwa to Launch ST-2 satellite in 2010

Singapore Telecommunications (SingTel) and Taiwan's Chunghwa Telecom have formed a joint venture to build and launch an ST-2 satellite. This satellite is targeted to be delivered in 2010 and will replace the ST-1 satellite, which will be retired in 2011.SingTel will have approximately 62% share in the joint venture. Chunghwa Telecom will own the remaining 38%.

Mr Bill Chang, SingTel's Executive Vice President for Business, said: "The ST-2 satellite will offer significantly greater capacity than ST-1 and wider coverage to also include emerging markets such as the Middle East. We are well placed to meet the strong demand for fixed and mobile satellite services, including our innovative IP-based solutions, which are transforming the way our customers do business. Even before its launch, about two-thirds of ST-2's capacity has been pre-booked."
  • The original ST-1 satellite was launched in 1998 as a joint venture between SingTel and ChungHwa. Its payload includes sixteen high-power Ku-band transponders and fourteen medium-power C-band transponders, as well as two Ku-band spot beams. Services includes telephony, digital DTH broadcasting, and VSAT.

Nanoradio Supplies WiFi for 3G UMA Mobile Phone

Nanoradio AB has supplied its "Always On WiFi" silicon for Samsung's first 3G UMA phone. The same "Always On WiFi" solution was also recently launched in a 2.5G UMA phone. The two phones, P250 and P270, will both be released by Samsung in multiple countries in Europe, opening up a new world of multimedia services to the UMA operator customer base. The P270 is the first device on the market that combines UMA and 3G network technology.

Nanoradio said its NRX700/2 Wi-Fi chipset offers fully tested 802.11b/g functionality, featuring ultra-low power consumption enabling extensive UMA standby time and UMA talk time. The Nanoradio WiFi solution is doubling the standby and talk time compared to standard UMA phone offerings.

AT&T and DIRECTV Re-Sign Satellite TV Resale Agreement

AT&T and DIRECTV announced a deal under which AT&T will market and sell DIRECTV's service as a co-branded satellite television service after January 31, 2009.

AT&T | DIRECTV will become part of the AT&T Advanced TV video portfolio, alongside AT&T U-verse TV, after the expiration of AT&T's current satellite agreement with DISH Network, which it will fully honor. AT&T will offer, market and sell co-branded AT&T | DISH Network services through Jan. 31, 2009. After that date, existing AT&T | DISH Network customers will continue to receive the same, quality service.

New AT&T | DIRECTV customers will receive DIRECTV programming packages, with the added benefit of a discount for bundling their wireless, home phone and broadband services with AT&T.

Other terms of the non-equity agreement were not disclosed.
  • On June 30, 2008, DISH Network received a notice of termination from AT&T concerning a reseller agreement under which AT&T markets the DISH Network programming services. As a result of the notice from AT&T, the commercial agreement will terminate on December 31, 2008.