Wed, Jul. 8, 11:58 PM
- Europe is leading the world in telecoms moving to "quad-play" bundling -- adding wireless to fixed-line telephones, broadband and pay TV -- which should mean a big opportunity for firms to drive margin improvement and build some competitive moats, says Morningstar's Allan Nichols.
- Both in-country consolidations and convergence mergers are helping build moats, he says -- the latter because it tends to lower churn as people subscribe to more services. And with lower churn, companies can lower subscriber acquisition cost.
- His favorites in the space: Telefonica (NYSE:TEF), already a leader in triple-play and convergence in Spain and Brazil; Orange (NYSE:ORAN), leading a fiber buildout in France; and Millicom International Cellular (OTCPK:MIICF), with a high organic growth rate but low EV/EBITDA.
- About 16% of Virgin Media customers were taking four services when it was acquired by Liberty Global (NASDAQ:LBTYA) in summer 2013, which Nichols thinks was a key factor. Liberty is now offering wireless services as an MVNO in several markets, and has agreed to buy Royal KPN's (OTCPK:KKPNY) wireless business Base.
- From the wireless direction, Vodafone (NASDAQ:VOD) is also acquiring assets to offer other services, particularly after it bought Cable & Wireless Worldwide in the UK, and later Kabel Deutschland in Germany.
- Europe would benefit from more cross-border mergers, Nichols says, but they're unlikely due to political constraints, and German cable consolidation is likely to run into regulatory opposition as well.
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