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British tech firm Imagination for sale amid Apple dispute

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UK computer processor firm Imagination Technologies Group is on the market and has received takeover interest from a number of parties, the group announced in a statement today.

The company, which designs and makes graphics and processing chips for products such as Apple’s iPhone, said that following approaches from potential buyers “the board of Imagination has therefore decided to initiate a formal sale process for the group and is engaged in preliminary discussions with potential bidders”.

Imagination’s share price collapsed in April after Apple said it would no longer use its licensed technology in 15 months’ to two years’ time. “Apple has not presented any evidence to substantiate its assertion that it will no longer require Imagination’s technology, without violating Imagination’s patents, intellectual property and confidential information. This evidence has been requested by Imagination but Apple has declined to provide it,” the company announced at the time.

“Further, Imagination believes that it would be extremely challenging to design a brand new GPU architecture from basics without infringing its intellectual property rights, accordingly Imagination does not accept Apple’s assertions.

“Imagination has reserved all its rights in respect of Apple’s unauthorised use of Imagination’s confidential information and Imagination’s intellectual property rights,” it said in April.

The company “remains in dispute with Apple Inc”, today’s statement also said.

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KPMG lands BT auditing role

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Global consulting firm KPMG is to replace PwC as auditor of British Telecom.

“Following completion of the audit of the BT accounts for the 2017/18 financial year by PwC, KPMG will be appointed as auditor subject to approval by shareholders at the Annual General Meeting in 2018,” the telecoms giant said today in a statement.

The news comes following a fraud scandal at BT’s Italian operations earlier this year, and ends PwC’s 33-year role as auditor to the former state telco, which was privatised in 1984.

It is reported that KPMG landed the deal ahead of EY, with the other ‘big four’ firm, Deloitte, not participating in the bid due to its existing role as a BT technology consultant.

The auditing crisis had a dramatic effect on BT’s share price and forecasts, forcing it to bring forward an audit tender process that had previously been expected in 2020.

“BT, KPMG and PwC will commence transition planning immediately to ensure a smooth and effective migration during 2017/18,” the company said.

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Nokia relaunches iconic 3310

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The mobile phone market has thrived on innovation and newness for the past 20 years – but Nokia’s latest model aims to capitalise on anti-smartphone sentiment.

The brand, now owned by HMD, is re-imagining its landmark 3310 handset complete with Snake, retro levels of internet access – and battery that’s good for a full month of standby.

The reboot comes as Nokia launches three new smartphones at Mobile World Congress: the Nokia 6, Nokia 5 and Nokia 3

“Consumers today are seeking relationships with brands that they can trust,” explained Pekka Rantala, Chief Marketing Officer of HMD Global. “The Nokia brand has over 150 years of heritage giving it an authentic, differentiating experience which we are proud to introduce to a new generation of fans.

“Our new Android Nokia smartphone portfolio, together with the return of the iconic Nokia 3310, is a real statement of our ambition and commitment to honouring the hallmarks of a true Nokia phone experience.”

The new/old handset is expected to retail at €49.

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EE to introduce balloon and drone-based masts

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Mobile provider EE has revealed its own patent-pending drone and baloon-based mobile masts aimed at improving coverage throughout the UK.

The company claims that its air masts will be able to serve sites where 4G coverage is absent, or to aid search and rescue operations. EE expects to first use the technology in the UK later this year.

“We are going to extraordinary lengths to connect communities across the UK,” said CEO Marc Allera. “Innovation is essential for us to go further than we’ve ever gone, and deliver a network that’s more reliable than ever before. Rural parts of the UK provide more challenges to mobile coverage than anywhere else, so we have to work harder there – developing these technologies will ultimately help our customers, even in the most hard-to-reach areas.”

The drones and balloons will use small cells to connect into the EE network via satellite or 4G.

“Looking ahead, I see innovations like this revolutionising the way people connect,” Allera said. “We’re developing the concept of ‘coverage on demand’. What if an event organiser could request a temporary EE capacity increase in a rural area, or a climber going up Ben Nevis could order an EE aerial coverage solution to follow them as they climb? We need to innovate, and we need to think differently, always using customers’ needs to drive the way we create new technologies.”

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Murdoch Sky takeover gains momentum

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Deal agreed by 21st Century Fox valued at £11.7bn

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch’s bid to take over Sky via his 21st Century Fox has reached another milestone, with terms being agreed by both sides.

The proposed deal, if completed, will see 21st Century Fox offering £10.75 per share to Sky shareholders, in an acquisition that is expected to complete by the end of 2017 according to the American company’s Nasdaq statement.

“As the founding shareholder of Sky, we are proud to have participated in its growth and development,” 21st Century Fox said. “The strategic rationale for this combination is clear. It creates a global leader in content creation and distribution, enhances our sports and entertainment scale, and gives us unique and leading direct-to-consumer capabilities and technologies. It adds the strength of the Sky brand to our portfolio, including the Fox, National Geographic and Star brands.”

The deal is valued at £11.7bn in order to acquire the 61% of Sky not yet owned by 21st Century Fox. It has already sparked intense political debate, five years on from the phone-hacking scandal that ended Murdoch’s previous attempt to fully acquire the broadcaster.

Sky’s deputy chairman, Martin Gilbert, added detail to the proposal. “The Independent Committee, which was formed with the express purpose of protecting independent shareholders’ interests in relation to the proposal from 21st Century Fox, has given full consideration to the fundamental value and prospects for the Sky Group,” he explained.

“While the Independent Committee remains confident in Sky’s long-term prospects, as laid out in detail at our recent investor day in October, we, supported by our advisers, believe 21st Century Fox’s offer at a 40% premium to the undisturbed share price will accelerate and de-risk the delivery of future value for all Sky Shareholders. As a result, the Independent Committee unanimously agreed that we have a proposal that we can put to Sky shareholders and recommend.

“The Independent Committee also notes 21st Century Fox’s track record in growing businesses and its ability to continue the development of Sky across Europe, in a world where entertainment and distribution are converging. 21st Century Fox’s ownership will support the delivery of Sky’s strategy and long-term growth, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of Europe’s creative industries.”

Sky sees ‘substantial’ room to poach UK mobile customers

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The Sky is the limit…or is there really room for another provider in a crowded market?

Pay-TV provider Sky Plc, preparing to take on telecom fixtures like BT Group Plc and Vodafone Group Plc, has an opportunity to win a “substantial” number of mobile-phone customers from its U.K. rivals, according to the company’s top executive for the region.

“There are literally millions of customers for us to go after,” Stephen van Rooyen, chief executive officer of Sky’s U.K. and Ireland unit, said Thursday at the company’s capital markets day west of London. “We’ve long had our eyes on the size of the prize. The mobile market is huge.”

EXPANDING IN A CROWDED MARKET

Sky, which operates in five European countries, is expanding out of its home turf in pay-TV to get customers to buy as many as four different products, intensifying a battle with BT and Liberty Global Plc’s Virgin Media, which have already moved into mobile. It’s stepping into a U.K. mobile-phone market of about 15 billion pounds ($18 billion), allying with Telefonica SA’s O2, which will carry the service on its network.

The market is already crowded with four network operators — BT’s EE unit, Vodafone, CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd.’s Three UK and O2. Virgin is among a handful of so-called MVNOs that use others’ network, as Sky plans to do.

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Existing Sky customers can register for mobile service starting Oct. 31, executives said Thursday at the company’s capital markets day, a seven-hour meeting for investors and analysts at its campus west of London.

The company will reveal pricing later, and will begin service to existing customers this year, followed by marketwide sales in 2017, Van Rooyen said. He didn’t provide firm dates. Research suggests two-thirds of Sky’s existing customers would consider switching to its mobile service, he said.

SKY IS THE LIMIT?

The executives’ enthusiasm for the mobile service failed to boost Sky’s stock. It fell the most in almost three months as investors digested the company’s growth plans — not only in mobile-phones but elsewhere in its business. Projections for Germany seemed aggressive, according to Ian Whittaker, an analyst at Liberum Capital Ltd.

“It looks like their mid-to-high single-digit revenue growth depends a lot on success in getting double-digit growth in Germany, a market that has always promised much but never fulfilled its promise,” Whittaker said in an e-mail.

The shares were down 2.4 percent to 835.5 pence at 1:06 p.m. in London, after dropping as much as 3 percent earlier, which would be the biggest loss since July 21.

Sky may enter the U.K. cellular market with attractive prices for mobile data, such as 5 pounds for 2 gigabytes per month or 10 pounds for 10 gigabytes per month, undercutting its peers, Wilton Fry, an analyst at Analysts at RBC Europe Ltd., said in a research note this week.

by Rebecca Penty

(Bloomberg)