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Liberty Global, Telefonica SA create mega-firm

The companies agreed to merge their British businesses in a $38 billion deal.
Read time 9min 30sec

The coronavirus pandemic continues to dominate most things, including the ICT industry. It has already had a significant effect on the raft of quarterly results that have been published recently.

However, the IPO market is beginning to move again, with plans, filings and listings happening across the globe and especially in the Far East. As before, the acquisition situation continues apace.

South African highlights

  • Helios Towers signed an agreement between one of its South African subsidiaries – HTSA Towers and Eagle Towers – to acquire 65 wireless telecommunications sites in SA.
  • Sebata disposed of Nerdworks Turrito to Growth Capital Partners for about R33 million.
  • Vantage Capital fully exited its investment in fibre-to-the-home operator Vumatel.
  • The announcement of new CEOs/MDs/GMs at Canon SA, Hitachi Vantara, Nashua Group, The Blue Pencil Group and Vodacom SA.

African highlights

  • Africell won Angola’s fourth operating licence.
  • China Mobile International, Facebook, MTN GlobalConnect, Orange, STC, Telecom Egypt, Vodafone and WIOCC partnered to build 2Afric, touted as the most comprehensive subsea cable to serve the African continent and Middle East region. At 37 000km long, 2Africa will be one of the world’s largest subsea cable projects and will interconnect Europe (eastward via Egypt), the Middle East (via Saudi Arabia), and 21 landings in 16 countries in Africa.
  • DFA, an open-access fibre-connectivity provider, has become the first telecommunications provider in 10 years to be granted an operating licence by the Postal and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe.
  • Ethiopia’s Ministry of Finance said 40% of the equity of Ethio Telecom will be made available to foreign investment, while 5% will be made available to the public.
  • Metrofile disposed of its 60% shareholding in Metrofile Zambia.
  • The announcement of a new CEO/MD for the Africa Market unit of IFS.

International highlights

  • Accenture entered into an agreement to acquire Italy-based boutique systems integrator PLM Systems. It also acquired Byte Prophecy, an automated insights and big data analytics company; Callisto Integration, a Canada-based provider of consulting and technology services; and Kates Kesler, an organisation design consultancy that helps many of the world’s largest companies execute their growth strategies.
  • AddSecure, a Swedish data and communications company, acquired Connexas, a provider of connected technology and management solutions for commercial vehicle fleets.
  • Altair acquired the WRAP software business from Swedish company WRAP International, a world-leading software technology for spectrum management and radio network planning for civil and defence organisations.
  • Apple acquired NextVR, a start-up that provides sports and other content for virtual reality headsets; and Inductiv, a machine-learning start-up.
  • Australia-headquartered software company Atlassian, the maker of teamwork focused software such as Trello, entered a deal to acquire Slack-application creator Halp.
  • Apttus, a Thoma Bravo company and a developer of software for managing work processes, has agreed to acquire rival Conga, which has developed document generation applications for customers, including Salesforce.com, for $715 million.
  • AppLovin, a provider of online video games and marketing services, agreed to acquire Machine Zone, a Palo Alto-based provider of mobile games.
  • Ardian, a French private equity company, agreed to acquire a majority stake in Swissbit, a Swiss manufacturer of flash storage and Internet of things products.
  • Bharti Airtel acquired a strategic stake in Voicezen, an early stage start-up focused on conversational AI technologies.
  • Cisco Systems agreed to acquire privately-held cloud software maker ThousandEyes for about $1 billion.
  • Cognizant entered into an agreement to acquire Collaborative Solutions, a privately held global consultancy specialising in Workday enterprise cloud applications for finance and human resources.
  • CyberArk acquired Thoma Bravo’s Idaptive in a move that will enable CyberArk and Idaptive to deliver the industry’s only modern identity platform with a security-first approach.
  • DocuSign acquired Seal Software, one of the leading contract analytics and artificial intelligence technology providers.

Vantage Capital fully exited its investment in fibre-to-the-home operator Vumatel.

  • EQT acquired Freepik Company, freemium provider of digital visual content.
  • F5 Networks acquired Shape Security, a fraud and abuse prevention company.
  • Facebook acquired Giphy, whose animated image library will be integrated into Instagram.
  • General Atlantic will invest $870 million in Jio Platforms, a fourth deal that takes investment in the company to over $8 billion in less than a month.
  • Goldfinch Partners agreed to acquire Vesta, a provider of fraud protection and payment tech services for telecommunications and e-commerce companies.
  • HCL Technologies acquired Cisco’s Self-Optimising Network technology.
  • HOOQ, a joint venture that includes Singtel (majority owner), Sony Pictures and Warner Bros Entertainment, applied for liquidation. It also terminated its partnerships with Disney's Hotstar and Indonesia's VideoMax.
  • Intelsat filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to reorganise its debt situation and arrange a financial restructuring.
  • IHS Markit acquired Catena Technologies, a global regulatory trade reporting firm based in Singapore.
  • India's anti-trust body is looking into allegations that Google is abusing its market position to unfairly promote its mobile payments app in the country.
  • Insight Partners led an investment in Semperis, a developer of a cyber security platform designed to identify risks and manage data breaches for government agencies and other organisations.
  • Keysight Technologies, a software testing company, agreed to pay €350 million for UK-based rival Eggplant.
  • Intel acquired Moorit, the Israeli public transit app maker; and Rivet Networks, in a move designed to boost WiFi offerings for its PC products.
  • KKR is set to invest $1.5 billion in Jio Platforms, as well as Silver Lake ($750 million) and Vista Equity Partners ($1.5 billion). In addition, Microsoft is considering a similar investment.
  • Liberty Global and Telefonica SA agreed to merge their British businesses in a $38 billion deal.
  • Microsoft agreed to buy networking software firm Metaswitch and acquired Softomotive, a provider of robotic software to automate tasks.
  • Nvidia plans to acquire data centre networking specialist Cumulus Networks.
  • MobileIron acquired incapptic Connect, a provider of mobile app release automation software.
  • Ontario Systems acquired SwervePay, a provider of payment software for the revenue management and healthcare industries.
  • SoftBank plans to raise as much as $2.9 billion by selling a 5% stake in its Japanese wireless subsidiary, the latest in a series of asset divestitures. Founder Masayoshi Son said he would sell off about $42 billion in assets, including shares in Alibaba Group Holding and $20 billion of T-Mobile US. In addition, a unit of SoftBank Group-backed Indian ride-hailing company Ola will buy Amsterdam-based electric scooter company Etergo as part of its plan to locally build electric vehicles.
  • Sony will turn its financial arm, Sony Financial Holdings, into a wholly-owned unit through a tender offer worth about $3.72 billion.
  • Telecom Italia has agreed to acquire Noovle, a digital consulting company.
  • Tencent Holdings has invested a 5% stake in Afterpay, the Australian buy-now-pay-later firm; and a 20% stake in Japan’s Marvelous, a games maker. It is also considering an investment in Warner Music.
  • China-based Tecnon (Fujian) Commercial Lighting Co plans to acquire all the shares of two semiconductor companies, Upstar Technology and SCE.
  • VMware agreed to buy security platform provider Octarine.
  • VeriSilicon Microelectronics, a Chinese semiconductor firm backed by Xiaomi and China’s Big Fund, is to float its shares on the Nasdaq-style STAR Market.
  • Xiaomi entered into an agreement to invest about $102.84 million in Zimi, a Chinese maker of Internet of things (IOT)-based hardware and mobile accessories, as the smartphone maker aims to boost its 5G and IOT capabilities.
  • Zoom Video Communications acquired Keybase, a secure messaging and file-sharing service.
  • Zscaler acquired Edgewise Networks, an application security start-up.
  • Ucloudlink Group, a company that enables people to use mobile data traffic freely anytime and anywhere, filed for an IPO on Nasdaq; Shift4 Payments filed for an IPO on the NYSE; JD.com, NetEase and Yeahka filed for IPOs in Hong Kong; Qi An Xin Group, a cyber security firm, filed for China’s Nasdaq-style STAR Market; payments technology firm Shift4 Payments filed for the NYSE; and Zoominfo, a leading go-to-market intelligence platform, filed for sales and marketing teams on Nasdaq.
  • The announcement of a good IPO on Nasdaq by Kingsoft Cloud, the cloud computing spin-off of Hong Kong-listed Chinese software firm Kingsoft; an excellent IPO on the Nasdaq-like STAR Market of the Shanghai Stock Exchange by Fintech-driven software as a service solutions provider Linkage Software; and an excellent IPO in Norway by Pexip, a video-conferencing company.
  • The announcement of new CEOs at 3D Systems, Capgemini, Cornerstone OnDemand, Fiserv, NXP Semiconductors, Tactile Systems Technology, Teradata, TikTok and Wipro.

Stock market changes for May

  • JSE All share index: Up almost 3%
  • FTSE100: Up over 5%
  • DAX: Up over 6%
  • NYSE (Dow): Up over 7%
  • S&P 500: Up over 7%
  • Nasdaq: Up over 10%
  • Nikkei225: Up over 11%
  • Hang Seng: Down nearly 7%
  • Shanghai: Marginally down

Research highlights:

  • Global tablet shipments are forecast to climb 45.5% sequentially and 9.9% on year in Q220, thanks to a recovery in the related supply chain's capacity in China and educational tablet orders deferred from the first quarter, according to Digitimes Research.
  • Worldwide IT spending is projected to total $3.4 trillion in 2020, a decline of 8% from 2019, according to Gartner. The coronavirus pandemic and effects of the global economic recession are causing CIOs to prioritise spending on technology and services that are deemed ‘mission-critical’ over initiatives aimed at growth or transformation.
  • Global shipments of devices are on pace to decline 13.6% in 2020, totalling 1.9 billion units, according to Gartner.
  • Worldwide IT spending is now expected to decline 5.1% this year to $2.25 trillion, as the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to drive down some categories of tech spending and short-term business investments, according to IDC. In addition, it expects ICT spending, which includes telecoms and business services, to decline by 3.4% this year to just over $4 trillion, with telecoms spending down 0.8%. However, IT infrastructure spending is still projected to grow overall by almost 4% to $237 billion, with resilient spending by service providers in addition to ongoing enterprise demand for cloud services offsetting declines in business capital spending.

Final word

Fortune magazine has published its annual ‘Fortune 500’ listing for 2020, which covers the US market. The following is a snapshot of some of the key happenings in those rankings from a technology perspective:

  • Amazon, at number two, has replaced Apple as the top technology company.
  • Cerner, CommScope, Crown Castle International, SAIC and Uber are the new entrants to the top 500.
  • First Data (acquired by Fiserv), L3 Technologies (acquired by Harris), On Semiconductor, Viacom (acquired by CBS) and Windstream Holdings have exited the top 500.
  • EPAM Systems, Fortinet, SBA Communications, Splunk, Super Micro Computer, Take Two Interactive and ViaSat enter the top 1 000 for the first time.
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