MADRID -(Dow Jones)- Telefonica Moviles SA (TEM) said Friday that the governments of Germany and Italy have extended the deadline set for the Spanish mobile operator to start third-generation mobile operations or sell its 3G licenses in both countries.
Confirming an earlier press report in financial daily Cinco Dias, a spokesman for the company said that the extensions followed legal challenges in both countries, after the governments threatened to withdraw the licenses held by subsidiaries Quam and IPSE.
Moviles acquired both licenses for over EUR6 billion during a buying spree in 2000, but wrote them off in 2002, saying it didn't plan to launch 3G operations in either country. Both the German and the Italian government have accused the subsidiaries of not abiding by their network rollout commitments.
The spokesman said the German government hasn't set a firm deadline for Quam, while the Italian government has given an extended deadline until sometime next month.
Moviles, a subsidiary of Spain's Telefonica SA (TEF), has a 57.2% stake in Quam, while Nordic operator TeliaSonera AB (TLSN.SK) owns the remaining interest. IPSE's minority shareholders include TeliaSonera, Capitalia SpA (CAP.MI), Fiat SpA (FIA), Edison SpA (EDN.MI) and ACEA SpA (ACE.MI).
Moviles already sold its 3G Austrian license in 2003, to Mobilkom Austria for some EUR13 million, and also owns an idle 3G license in Switzerland. In Italy, it held aborted talks this year, to sell the license to utility Enel SpA (EN) for some EUR792 million.
The issue of idle European 3G licenses doesn't only affect Moviles. In the company's own Spanish home market, license-holder Xfera has said it's in talks to reach a partnership with Hong-Kong based Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (0013.HK).
Company Web site: http://www.telefonica.es
-By David Roman, Dow Jones Newswires, 34 913958125, firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires"
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