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AT&T may eye acquisitions in Europe this year

Mobile networks in the UK, Netherlands or Germany may be low cost targets for US carrier's expansion plan


Published: 18 January, 2013

READ MORE: M&A | Europe | AT&T

Carriers from the Americas are looking across the Atlantic for possible acquisitions, as the eurozone crisis offers the potential of some bargain prices. America Movil has already taken stakes in KPN of the Netherlands and Telekom Austria and is said to be eyeing a broader footprint. Now AT&T is reported to want European purchases too.

Although western European markets are more saturated and over-competitive than those in the Americas, they are ripe for consolidation and low cost acquisitions or stakes could be available. And the region still has high potential for innovative and high value data services, for consumers, enterprises and M2M customers.

Despite the dismal track record of US and Asian operators' M&A adventures abroad, AT&T is said to be scouting around for deals, though sources indicate it is not in a hurry, and a Wall Street Journal report only says an acquisition could "come by the end of this year". Apparently, AT&T executives are interested in countries where there is a weak mobile network, often a fourth player, to snap up.

Candidates could include KPN's units in its home country or Germany; Hutchison 3's subsidiaries in the UK or Italy; or Telefonica's O2 holdings in Germany or the UK, which the Spanish giant is rumored to be considering for offload in order to reduce debt (it has already undergone an IPO of O2 Germany, though this week it denied claims it would pursue a similar route in the UK). Another UK possibility could be a takeover of, or stake in, the biggest cellco, EE, a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Telecom. There has been persistent speculation that either or both partners might sell out its share in EE.

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