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Verizon Wireless Agrees to Honor Website Glitch That Offered Subsidized Upgrades & Unlimited Data

oopsA website glitch by Verizon Wireless last weekend let customers with legacy unlimited data plans to upgrade to a new subsidized smartphone on a two-year contract and keep unlimited data.

This afternoon, Verizon Wireless representatives confirmed they will honor upgrades from customers that took advantage of the mistake, despite the fact Verizon’s CEO has gone out of his way to declare unlimited data service “unsustainable.”

Over the past weekend, there was a software issue involving some orders for customers seeking to upgrade their devices. A number of customers who were upgrading devices were able to maintain an unlimited monthly data feature while paying a subsidized price. Verizon Wireless will honor those orders that were approved this past weekend, allowing those customers to retain their unlimited plans for the duration of their contract and receive their new device. Verizon Wireless corrected this software issue today.  The company no longer offers unlimited data plans and customers who want to retain existing unlimited data plans, must pay full retail price for a replacement phone.

610px-Verizon-Wireless-Logo_svgVerizon Wireless discontinued offering unlimited use data plans, but has allowed customers still on those plans to keep them indefinitely. Last year, Verizon Wireless amended its policy for grandfathered unlimited customers denying them access to subsidized, discounted devices unless they switched to a usage-based plan. A website error allowed unlimited customers to bypass a usual restriction requiring them to abandon their unlimited plan to complete the upgrade order. Dozens of customers reported this morning they had received their new phones with unlimited data still intact. With the glitch fixed, customers attempting to upgrade will once again need to give up unlimited data in return for a device discount.

Verizon Wireless CEO Lowell McAdam said last week offering unlimited data service was “unsustainable” as a matter of physics. McAdam said carriers still offering unlimited data will be overwhelmed by excessive customer use, running wireless networks “out of gas.”

Sprint countered it has plenty of “runway” to continue selling unlimited data service, and even offers a “lifetime guarantee” of unlimited service on its wireless network.

unlimited for lifeAt least one Wall Street analyst agreed with Sprint.

“This Verizon comment simply makes no sense. When two different people look at the same thing you often get two completely different perspectives. That’s what is happening here. It does not mean either is right or wrong, just different,” said tech analyst Jeff Kagan. “Unlimited wireless data may not make sense for Verizon Wireless for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they want to have some control over how much wireless data is being used. Perhaps they want to increase their profitability. Whatever the reason, this is Verizon’s belief and they are not wrong, for Verizon. Sprint is a different story.”

Sprint’s chief financial officer Joe Euteneuer, speaking at a Goldman Sachs conference in New York on Thursday, said Sprint’s acquisition of 2.5GHz radio spectrum from Clearwire will give it a capacity edge once its 4G network build-out is done in mid-2014.

“We feel very good about our positioning having that spectrum . .. and our portfolio spectrum vs. the competition,” Euteneuer said. “So we’ll get leverage there.”

“Sprint’s unlimited plans are the right idea at the right time,” added Kagan. “They have plenty of capacity on the network. Sprint in fact has much more spectrum than Verizon. Sprint needs to hang on to their existing customer base and attract new users. If Sprint charged the same as Verizon or AT&T they would lose. So Sprint needs to attract attention. That’s what always happens in a market. The leaders and the followers take different marketing and positioning angles. And that’s exactly what is happening here.”

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Wireless is Verizon’s Cash Cow: $12.9 Billion in Operating Profits vs. Landlines/FiOS: $87 Million

moneyIf “follow the money” is a maxim in business, then it should come as no surprise Verizon favors the making the bulk of its investments and expansion in its enormously profitable wireless business.

Verizon Wireless earned the company $12.9 billion in operating profits during the first six months of 2013 while landlines and Verizon’s fiber optic network only delivered $87 million. That inconsistency may help explain why Verizon FiOS expansion is stalled while Verizon throws enormous sums into its 4G LTE wireless upgrade project.

The average Verizon Wireless bill is now over $150 a month. FiOS customers pay an average of over $150 a month as well, but Verizon’s costs to reach its smaller customer footprint are higher. Revenues for basic landline service are considerably lower than either wireless or fiber service.

With wireless providing a virtual ATM for Verizon Communications, the New York Times notes it is unsurprising that Verizon wants to buy out its European partner Vodafone, which owns 45% of Verizon Wireless. Once the $130 billion transaction is complete, Verizon will keep wireless profits all to itself as it continues lobbying for permission to decommission rural landlines and encourage those customers to use its vastly more profitable and almost entirely unregulated wireless network instead.

Exactly 100 years after Verizon predecessor AT&T/The Bell System voluntarily agreed to be a regulated monopoly provider of telephone service, Verizon Wireless and AT&T have successfully established unregulated wireless networks that serve most Americans with cell service and wireless data at prices that would be shocking to people 20 years ago.

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Your New Meter Reader May Be Verizon Wireless; Company Moving Into Cell-Based Meters

Phillip Dampier September 30, 2013 Consumer News, Verizon, Wireless Broadband 1 Comment

meterThat bi-monthly visit from your local utility’s meter reader may eventually be a thing of the past.

Verizon Communications is moving rapidly to establish itself as an “end to end smart grid solutions provider,” providing utility smart meters for gas, electric, and water service that communicate over Verizon Wireless’ cellular network.

“We’re in the midst of a pilot right now, and what we’re piloting is more than the meter data management — we have a meter-to-cash system that includes an advanced metering infrastructure partner as well,” said Ernie Lewis, industry partner with Verizon’s global energy and utility practice.

Verizon hopes to capitalize on forthcoming smart meter adoption, replacing current mechanical meters for natural gas, electricity and water with new electronic meters that have two-way wireless communications capability with the parent utility. Smart meters can offer customers time of day savings for running high consumption appliances during off-peak hours, automatically deliver meter readings to the utility without having to dispatch an army of meter readers to customers’ homes, and support pay-per-use billing that turns the power off when your prepaid account is depleted.

Verizon will manage the potential data demands of such services through cloud networks, potentially through its acquired subsidiary Terremark. Verizon already operates its own energy and utilities enterprise solutions business.

 

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Competition Not: Canada’s Forthcoming Spectrum Auction Bidders a Familiar Lot

before after

Before -and- After

Hopes for increased Canadian wireless competition were dashed last week when Industry Canada released an official list of approved spectrum auction bidders mostly filled with familiar names.

Fifteen Canadian participants including market-dominant Bell, Rogers and Telus each put down a refundable 5% deposit for the Jan. 14 auction. Most of the rest of the bidders are regional providers or suspected spectrum speculators hoping to sell any acquired spectrum at a profit.

It was good news for the three largest cell companies which feared the possibility of a well-funded new entrant like Verizon Wireless. Instead of facing the deep pockets of Verizon, the three cell companies will be competing against regional providers like Quebec’s Vidéotron, Bragg Communications’ EastLink which serves Atlantic Canada, and provincial telephone companies MTS in Manitoba and SaskTel in Saskatchewan.

Two private equity firms are also participating: a subsidiary of Birch Hill Equity Partners and Catalyst Capital which holds the debt for independent Wind Mobile. Wind Mobile’s owner Globalive Communications is also registered as a participant. Both could use the airwaves in the Wind Mobile business or sell them to another provider.

“Ultimately, what would have been great is to have a well-capitalized startup, a feisty competitor coming in,” telecom analyst Troy Crandall told the Canadian Press news agency. “That would have been the best thing for consumers.”

But Canada’s best hope for lower cell phone bills was never to be found from Verizon Wireless.

“I can assure our investors that we never have and never will be leading on price,” Lowell McAdam told investors at a conference last week.

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No Verizon FiOS Expansion for Next Several Years; Company to Focus on Improving Profits

Verizon plans to maintain a moratorium on further expansion of its fiber to the home service except in areas where it has existing agreements to deliver service.

Verizon’s moratorium on further expansion of its fiber to the home service will continue for “the next couple of years.”

Verizon FiOS won’t be coming soon to a home near you, unless that home is inside a community with a standing agreement with the phone company.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam made it clear to attendees at Tuesday’s Goldman Sachs 22nd Annual Communacopia Conference his priority continues to be investing in the company’s highly profitable wireless business, while the company’s wired infrastructure is being targeted for more cost cutting, especially in areas designated to see existing copper infrastructure decommissioned. As for expanding FiOS into new communities, McAdam said he instead preferred to concentrate on improving market share and profits for the next few years in areas already getting the fiber optic service.

McAdam noted John Stratton, president of Verizon Enterprise Solutions, has been hard at work pruning Verizon’s wireline products and services targeted to business and government customers.

“I think [he] killed about 2,000 products this year, and we have taken 350 systems offline last year,” McAdam noted. “I think we are already at 250 this year. That sort of discipline gives you the ability to streamline your infrastructure.”

For residential customers, Verizon has two sets of offerings: one for customers served by FiOS fiber optics, the other for customers unlikely to see fiber upgrades indefinitely.

Inside Existing FiOS Service Areas

“We are doing some major technology shifts within FiOS to make it more efficient,” McAdam said. “We’re going to concentrate there for the next couple of years.”

McAdam’s signals to Wall Street were loud and clear: no more FiOS expansion into new communities for now.

McAdam

McAdam

Instead, Verizon will focus on improving existing service in several key areas:

  • Verizon has almost two million optical terminals that McAdam says were active at one point and are now sitting idle, suggesting FiOS has won and lost nearly two million customers since launching, either because the customer switched providers or moved away. McAdam said he wants to improve Verizon FiOS’ product set enough to attract those customers back. He noted with the terminals and cables already in place, the capital costs to win back a former customer are near zero;
  • Verizon is introducing a new terminal this fall. Verizon’s FiOS Media Server “eliminates the requirement for coax, once you get into the optical terminal in the basement or wherever in the house,” McAdam said. “That slashes the installation time, and therefore makes the product a lot more profitable for us going forward. It eliminates set-top boxes, it is all IP-based going forward.”
  • Verizon will continue to expand Verizon FiOS, particularly in New York City where it has a commitment to offer service.

Verizon FiOS has managed to build a much larger market share than its nearest neighbor, AT&T U-verse. McAdam claimed Verizon FiOS has achieved a 39 percent market share in broadband and around 34 percent on its television service so far. McAdam’s goal is to boost that to 45 percent. In areas of Texas where Verizon first introduced its FiOS fiber optic service, the company already has a penetration rate above 50 percent for broadband and 50 percent for television, demonstrating room to grow market share. AT&T’s U-verse TV penetration rate is 20.1 percent.

For Those Unserved by FiOS

4g wireless

Verizon’s 4G LTE Broadband Router with Voice

Except for Fire Island, N.Y., there are no significant announcements of FiOS expansion. Instead, Verizon has focused on investing to improve its wireless 4G LTE cell networks with the hope existing landline customers will consider switching to higher-profit wireless service. An attempted trial of Verizon Voice Link, intended to be an entry-level wireless replacement of landline service, failed badly on Fire Island due to an avalanche of complaints about poor quality reception, dropped and incomplete calls, and lack of support for data.

Now Verizon is back with a new offering, its 4G LTE Broadband Router with Voice ($49.99 2-yr contract with $175 early termination fee/$199.99 month-to-month).

“Securely connect wired and wireless devices to the 4G LTE network, and connect your landline phone to make calls,” Verizon’s website says. “Combine voice and data on a Share Everything Plan for added savings.”

The device can function as both a wireless landline replacement and router for data. The unit includes three Ethernet ports and Wi-Fi to share your connection. A landline phone or cordless phone base station can be plugged in as well.

Verizon charges an extra $20 a month for Home Service Monthly Line Access on Share Everything Plans, which covers your telephone service. Customers get unlimited local, long distance, call forwarding, call waiting, three-way calling, and voice mail. 911 is available, but Verizon disclaims any responsibility if you cannot reach an operator. The device also supports TTY-TTD calling.

Verizon claims users can expect 5-12Mbps downloading and 2-5Mbps uploading on Verizon’s 4G network, assuming there is solid coverage where you use the device. Usage caps apply. A backup battery keeps the service running for up to four hours of voice calling in the event of a power outage.

McAdam admitted the thing that keeps him up most at night are regulatory issues. He particularly called out Europe, which he believes is hostile for investment. But Europeans pay considerably less for wireless service than North Americans pay, and often have more choices due to competition and regulatory oversight.

“I think the beauty of the ’96 Telecom Act was that it was such a light touch on broadband and mobile,” said McAdam. “And that is — and I sit in Europe talking to investors all the time — that is the biggest difference between the U.S. and Europe.”

To head the FCC off from pursuing any additional regulatory oversight, McAdam claims he reluctantly approved Verizon’s lawsuit against the government on Net Neutrality.

“We have had to take some positions, frankly, that we didn’t want to take,” McAdam said of the lawsuit. “It opened the door for them to get into price regulation of broadband. And I think that is not their charter, and I think it would be a mistake for the U.S. economy and certainly the telecommunications ecosystem.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/Verizon 4G LTE Broadband Router with Voice 9-25-13.flv

Verizon Wireless’ latest 4G LTE router supports wireless landline service and 4G data.  (1 minute)

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Verizon Officially Ends Request to Make Voice Link Sole Landline Replacement in Parts of N.Y.

Verizon-logoVerizon Communications notified the New York Public Service Commission late Tuesday it was abandoning a request to replace damaged landlines anywhere in the state where the company’s facilities were substantially destroyed with a wireless service called Voice Link.

Verizon’s original tariff, if approved, would have allowed the company to drop landline service in areas of New York where it decided it was impractical to repair or replace heavily damaged wired infrastructure. Customers in these areas would no longer be able to obtain wired landline service or DSL broadband. Instead, under the original tariff request, Verizon would offer customers Voice Link as its sole service offering, providing voice-only service over existing telephones, assuming a good signal was available from a nearby Verizon Wireless cell tower.

Yesterday, Stop the Cap! reported a well-placed source in Albany indicated Verizon was unlikely to win approval of its tariff request after a summer of real-world experiences with Voice Link service on Fire Island. Customers overwhelmingly rejected the service, complaining about dropped and missed calls, poor voice quality, and the lack of an affordable broadband option. Yesterday, Verizon separately announced it was reversing an earlier decision and would now install its fiber network FiOS on Fire Island, offering customers the option of keeping Voice Link or switching to FiOS for telephone and/or broadband service.

Accordingly, Verizon today requested the PSC abandon proceedings regarding its request, calling the issue “moot,” and for now will no longer pursue an effort to drop landline service in New York. Verizon will continue to offer Voice Link in the state as an optional service, but will also provide traditional landline and DSL service (where available).

Verizon has not said whether it will continue to pursue regulators for permission to supply Voice Link as its sole service offering in part of New Jersey and Pennsylvania where the company’s landline networks were damaged by last year’s Hurricane Sandy.

 

verizon 9-10

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Verizon Gives Up On Voice Link as Its Sole Landline Replacement for Fire Island; Bringing FiOS By Next Summer

Verizon FiOS is coming to Fire Island.

Verizon FiOS is coming to Fire Island.

Verizon Communications has thrown in the beach towel attempting to convince residents of popular tourist destination Fire Island to accept its wireless landline replacement Voice Link as the company’s sole landline service option.

After telling customers for months it did not make financial sense to restore copper service or bring its fiber optic network FiOS to Fire Island, Verizon senior vice president of national operations support Tom Maguire today reversed course.

“In today’s competitive marketplace it’s all about making sure you can take care of customers because if you don’t they can go someplace else,” Maguire told Newsday. “Interestingly on Fire Island, there is no place else, so we listened to our customers. It was pretty apparent that we wanted to do something beyond Voice Link and the wireless network, so we think that fiber is the best course.”

Verizon customers on Fire Island have told Stop the Cap! all summer they felt abandoned by Verizon, stuck using a wireless landline replacement service they claimed worked poorly or not at all at times. Customers also loudly complained that Verizon was effectively forcing broadband customers who depended on Verizon DSL to the much more expensive Verizon Wireless broadband service with a very small usage cap. Many attended meetings sponsored by elected officials or the Public Service Commission to decry Voice Link and demand Verizon offer the same quality service its landline network used to provide.

Maguire told the newspaper the company will now deploy its fiber network FiOS on Fire Island, offering residents new options for telephone and broadband service. The 600 customers on Fire Island with Voice Link will be able to keep the wireless service or switch to FiOS fiber.

Reached for comment, Verizon tells Stop the Cap! its fiber service will not include FiOS TV because Verizon does not have franchise agreements with the many municipalities on Fire Island, and their primary concern is getting the fiber network engineered and constructed.

Schumer

Schumer

Fire Island residents have made it clear to Verizon their biggest concern is Internet access, not television, and Verizon FiOS will be able to deliver faster Internet speeds unavailable from DSL.

Verizon expects to begin construction in October, although it has already started preliminary design work for the new fiber network. Verizon expects to have the fiber build complete by the beginning of the 2014 summer season on the island.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), who has been carefully monitoring the Voice Link issue, released a statement welcoming Verizon’s decision.

“By installing fiber-optic cables on the island, Verizon will not only make the system as good as it was before, it will be making it better,” said Schumer. “Fire Island residents will now have greater access to high-speed Internet – a necessity in the modern age – and reliable voice service. Verizon deserves credit for listening to our concerns and changing course.”

In a June guest article written for publication on Stop the Cap!, Maguire wrote it would cost Verizon from $4.8 million to more than $6 million to restore landline service. Maguire argued it made no economic sense to commit to a multimillion dollar investment with no guarantee that residents of the island will sign up for Verizon service.

“That’s probably why Verizon is the sole provider on the island,” Maguire noted in the piece. “None of the companies we compete with in other parts of New York offer services on the island.”

Today’s decision represents a complete reversal of the company’s earlier views, but one that is welcomed nonetheless by residents on Fire Island reached by Stop the Cap! this afternoon.

“We’re very glad this is now over and behind us,” said Verizon customer Shari who has toughed out the summer with cellphone-only service.

“I can’t wait to return Voice Link, which has been a real pain,” said Thom.

Both customers tell Stop the Cap! they intend to sign up for Verizon FiOS the moment it becomes available.

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Verizon CEO: We’re Going to Trim Some Limbs Around the Tree to Get Rid of Underperforming Assets

tree trimWith total ownership of Verizon Wireless now assured, Verizon Communications plans to begin “tree trimming” assets in its portfolio that cannot match the profitability of its wireless business.

Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam told CNBC he has already communicated with Verizon’s executive team about the direction Verizon will take after it buys out Vodafone’s ownership interest in Verizon Wireless. One potential target for sale: millions of Verizon’s rural landlines that cannot hope to match the revenue an average cell phone customer delivers the company.

Verizon’s wireless assets now represent the company’s biggest generator of sales and profit, accounting for two-thirds of 2012 revenue and almost all of its operating income.

Where Verizon chooses to invest is largely dependent on what kind of return the company can expect. So far, the best returns have come from Verizon Wireless.

“I think there is no better way to deploy our capital then to invest in a [wireless] asset that today generates more than $80 billion in annual revenue, provides a 50% margin, generates significant cash flows and is uniquely positioned for future growth and profitability,” McAdam told investors Tuesday on a conference call announcing the purchase of Vodafone’s stake in Verizon Wireless. “Beyond the financial benefits, there is simply no better asset that fit seamlessly into our portfolio and our strategic beliefs. Our growth strategy has three basic elements: connectivity, platforms and solutions. We are very bullish on the growth outlook for the U.S. wireless marketplace.”

McAdam made it clear to CNBC’s Jim Cramer the company is not so bullish on its declining wireline business, which includes landlines, DSL, and even FiOS — the company’s fiber optic network:

Jim Cramer, CNBC: “[Under former Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg, Verizon] took areas that really weren’t growth areas and sold them to Frontier and other players. Would you be able to get rid of some of your underperforming landline businesses to be able to increase [Verizon's] growth even further?”

Lowell McAdam, Verizon: “That is a possibility. [...] If you talk about opportunities here, now that we have One Verizon, [...] we are going to trim some limbs around the tree here. Things that aren’t performing will not be a part of our portfolio so we can invest in things that will drive the kind of growth we are excited to be able to tap here.”

McAdam

McAdam

The trimming has already started in New York and New Jersey, where Verizon is moving forward with the introduction of a less expensive wireless landline replacement called Voice Link, now optional for some customers but could eventually be Verizon’s sole landline service offering in certain areas if state regulators approve.

Verizon calls the service an improvement for customers dealing with repeated service calls to fix troublesome landlines. Upkeep of Verizon’s copper networks has proved costly to the company, especially as it continues to count landline customer losses. The company argues providing wireless phone service is pro-consumer, providing a bundle of calling features and unlimited local and long distance calling at the same price Verizon charges for basic, no frills landline service. Local officials and residents using the service complain it is inadequate and unreliable.

“Voice Link is an innovative solution for a specific segment of Verizon’s voice-only customers that delivers reliable voice service using our trusted and reliable wireless network,” said Verizon spokesman John Bonomo. “Unlike copper-based service, it is less likely to fail during an adverse weather event because of our wireless networks’ resiliency.”

Analyzing the market value of Verizon’s buyout of Vodafone’s part ownership in Verizon Wireless and accounting for net debt reveals Verizon’s wireless operations are worth $289 billion, with  Verizon’s current 55 percent share worth about $159 billion. In contrast, Verizon’s wireline operations including landlines, business broadband, and FiOS are worth just a fraction of that — $24 billion, according to Bloomberg News.

carrierdatarevenue

Kevin Roe, an analyst at Roe Equity Research LLC in Dorset, Vt. values the wireline business at about $21 billion based on his estimates, while Spencer Kurn of New Street Research LLC puts the implied value of the unit at about $26 billion.

Verizon’s top rated fiber service FiOS has brought the company higher earnings and is deemed a success, but its total revenue remains insufficient to offset Verizon’s continued landline losses as customers drop home phone service and DSL. From a business perspective, that explains why Verizon is eager to invest billions in its high return wireless business while leaving further expansion of its fiber optic network on hold.

Revenue from the wireline unit totaled $39.8 billion last year, down from $50.3 billion in 2007, data compiled by Bloomberg show. During the same period, Verizon’s wireless revenue surged 73 percent to $75.9 billion.

“Clearly, wireless is going to be worth a lot more” than Verizon’s other businesses, Chris King, a Baltimore-based analyst at Stifel Financial Corp., told Bloomberg in a phone interview. Wireless is “where the growth is going to be coming from. There’s a bigger market opportunity going forward.”

McAdam has brought his enthusiasm for the wireless business to his role as Verizon CEO and its priority shows as he predicts even larger earnings in the future. McAdam told investors only 64 percent of Verizon Wireless customers use smartphones. Verizon wants to convert the remaining 30 million basic phone customers to higher-priced smartphone service as quickly as possible. Getting customers to switch to 4G-capable devices is also lucrative for Verizon, because its LTE network can more efficiently handle data at a lower cost. Only one-third of Verizon customers now use 4G LTE devices.

Embracing consumption based billing for wireless data is perhaps the biggest potential revenue generator of all as customers consume more data and begin connecting more devices to Verizon’s network.

Platforms including machine to machine and in-car connectivity “create even greater opportunities to drive increased usage,” McAdam said. “We also see many opportunities with Internet and cloud-based services. The digital economy is moving to mobile first on everything, which means there are many growth opportunities to pursue.”

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Verizon Says It Won’t Enter Canada; Incumbent Providers’ See Major Stock Gains

610px-Verizon-Wireless-Logo_svgExecutives at Canada’s largest telecom companies are sighing relief after Verizon announced it was not interested in competing in Canada.

“Verizon is not going to Canada,” Lowell McAdam, chief executive officer of New York-based Verizon, said yesterday in a phone interview with Bloomberg News. “It has nothing to do with the Vodafone deal, it has to do with our view of what kind of value we could get for shareholders. If we thought it had great value creation we would do it.”

McAdam added he thought speculation about Verizon’s plans in Canada was “way overblown.”

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CBC Big 3 Canada telecom stocks surge as Verizon threat fades 9-3-13.flv

The CBC reports three of the largest telecom companies in Canada are seeing their stock prices soar on news Verizon won’t enter Canada. Kevin O’Leary takes a position shared by Bell, Telus and Rogers that no spectrum should be set aside for new competitors. Instead, he seeks a “winner takes all” auction, even if it means dominant incumbent carriers monopolize every available frequency. (3 minutes)

McAdam

McAdam

Verizon’s possible entry into Canada was among the hottest stories of the summer, even reported on the CBC’s national nightly news. The potential new competition provoked Bell, Rogers, and Telus — three of Canada’s largest phone and cable companies — to join forces in a multimillion dollar lobbying effort to slow Verizon down and make the wireless business in Canada less attractive. The Harper government used news of Verizon’s potential entry to promote its policies favoring competition over regulation.

Verizon Chief Financial Officer Fran Shammo said the company was considering a wireless venture in Canada at a June Wall Street investor conference.

“We’re looking at the opportunity,” Shammo said at the time. “This is just us dipping our toe in the water.”

Verizon took its toe out yesterday, despite the potential profits available in a country criticized for its extremely expensive cell phone service.

“I’m surprised that Verizon isn’t interested in Canada,” tweeted Adam Shore. “There are over 33 million suckers up here that will pay ridiculous cell phone rates.”

Bell joined Telus and Rogers to launch a multi-million dollar lobbying effort to make Verizon's entry into Canada difficult.

Bell joined Telus and Rogers in launching a multi-million dollar lobbying effort to make Verizon’s entry into Canada difficult.

The three companies most Canadians now buy wireless service from denied they wanted to keep Verizon out, arguing they simply wanted a “level playing field.”

Industry Minister James Moore suggested a fourth large player could provoke a price war in a way much smaller wireless providers like Wind Mobile or Mobilicity never could. The government was willing to set aside coveted 700MHz wireless spectrum at a forthcoming auction to help a new entrant — any new entrant — get started.

Verizon’s decision to stay out might have delivered a damaging blow to the Conservative government’s “pro-competition” solution to the problem of high cell phone bills. After the announcement, Moore was left promising only that spectrum auctions would carry on regardless of Verizon’s decision.

For now, the best chance of increased competition comes from Quebecor, which is gradually expanding its wireless network. Spectrum set asides almost guarantee the owner of Quebec’s cable giant Vidéotron will be able to bid for and win significant spectrum at the upcoming auction, some at a discount.

“If Verizon doesn’t show up, they’re actually in a very strong position to buy a block of spectrum that will not be very expensive,” Maher Yaghi, an analyst at Desjardins Securities Inc., told Bloomberg News. “Wireless is currently providing them with a nice growth platform.”

Without a surprise late entrant suddenly announcing interest by the auction filing deadline of Sept. 17, many analysts predict the outcome will likely not deliver Canadians any significant changes in cell phone service and pricing. The government may also be disappointed with the auction proceeds. Canada’s big three will likely avoid overbidding and still end up dividing most of the available airwaves between them. Quebecor may end up with most of the rest at comparatively “fire sale” prices. The Montreal-based company must then decide how much it will spend to expand its home coverage areas outside of Quebec, Toronto, and southeastern Ontario.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/BNN Verizon Wont Enter Canada 9-3-13.flv

BNN reports Verizon’s decision not to enter Canada leaves the Conservative government without an effective means to moderate cell phone pricing in the country. Mary Anne de Monte-Whelan, president of The Delan Group, observed the government may be forced to take a more regulatory approach to control expensive cell service, possibly starting with roaming rates.  (7 minutes)

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Verizon Buys Out Its Partner Vodafone for $130 Billion; Deal is Largely Tax Free

Merger Partner?

Verizon Communications spent Labor Day weekend putting the final touches on a carefully crafted deal to attain full ownership of its wireless unit, buying out its British partner’s 45 percent share in a deal valued at $130 billion.

The long talked-about buyout of Vodafone has been on the table for years, but became a priority for Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam, who spent much of his career overseeing Verizon Wireless. Since McAdam took over from predecessor Ivan Seidenberg in 2011, he has refocused priority on Verizon’s wireless business, at the cost of landlines and Verizon’s fiber optic network FiOS.

The transaction dwarfs (by nearly four times) the $33 billion annual budget of the entire state of New Jersey. Verizon has agreed to pay Vodafone $58.9 billion in cash and $60.2 billion in Verizon shares, and finance another $5 billion of the deal in loan notes. Verizon has also agreed to sell its 23 percent ownership in Vodafone Italy worth around $3.5 billion and take on $2.5 billion of Vodafone’s debt.

A deal this large would normally generate tens of billions in tax revenue payable to HM Revenue & Customs in England and the Internal Revenue Service in the United States, but creative accounting at both companies makes it all but certain Vodafone will pay nothing in British taxes and only $5 billion to the IRS, despite its $130 billion windfall.

Vodafone is structuring the deal through a Dutch holding company, transferring assets to Verizon in a way that minimizes the tax bite. As proposed, the deal is exempt from taxes in both the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Verizon Wireless Vodafone McAdam Merger 9-3-13.mp4

CNBC had this exclusive interview with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam discussing why Verizon is willing to spend $130 billion to end its partnership with Vodafone and how Verizon Wireless will change as a result. (12 minutes)

610px-Verizon-Wireless-Logo_svgWall Street investment banks will do better than American and British tax authorities, dividing at least $1.3 billion in financing, merger, and legal fees surrounding the Verizon deal. Many of New York’s largest investment banks are taking part in the transaction.

Vodafone is depending heavily on guidance from Swiss-based UBS and Goldman Sachs. The latter has earned $438 million so far this year advising companies on mergers and acquisitions.

Verizon is relying on advice from J.P. Morgan Chase and Morgan Stanley. Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Barclays have joined to offer their help with the enormous debt-funding package required for the deal.

Verizon customers will notice little to nothing different about their wireless service after the deal is complete in the first quarter of 2014. Many customers had no idea Vodafone was part owner of the largest wireless company in the United States. Verizon always maintained effective control of the U.S. operation and plans no immediate changes as a result of assuming outright control of the company.

Little controversy is expected in getting the deal approved by regulators for the same reason.

Shareholders are likely to reap most of the rewards. Vodafone stockholders are expecting the bulk of the proceeds from the sale will be returned to them in the form of dividends. Verizon shareholders also expect better returns in the future now that Verizon’s profitable wireless unit will no longer have to set aside costly dividend payments intended for Vodafone and its shareholders.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/BBC Vodafone will not pay tax on 84bn sale to Verizon 9-2-13.flv

The BBC reports the sale of Vodafone’s 45% share of Verizon Wireless has been structured so that both companies can entirely avoid British and Dutch capital gains taxes and limit the American tax bite to less than $5 billion.  (1 minute)

tax-free-weekendVerizon hopes being the master of its own destiny will allow the company to innovate its wireless network towards future revenue opportunities, especially in the machine to machine connectivity business. Both AT&T and Verizon Wireless are racing to enable medical devices, home appliances, electric meters, and automobiles to communicate over their respective wireless networks. Both companies are concerned that the cell phone marketplace has become saturated in the United States, with most people desiring cell phone service already having it. With Wall Street demanding ongoing growth quarter after quarter, new revenue sources are more important than ever.

“Even in the saturated market, (Verizon Wireless) continues to post growth figures,” Bill Menezes, an industry analyst at research firm Gartner told USA Today. “They’re looking at a world where growth is coming from these ancillary devices.”

Many Verizon shareholders expected a deal this year, but some are concerned Verizon has offered too much to buy out Vodafone. Many Wall Street analysts had expected Vodafone would part with its 45 percent ownership of Verizon Wireless for around $100 billion, but Vodafone clearly held out for more.

The corporate deal is the world’s third largest after Vodafone’s $203 billion takeover of Germany’s Mannesmann in 1999 and AOL’s 2000 $181 billion acquisition of Time Warner.

Vodafone is planning to use some of the proceeds not returned to shareholders to bolster its European business, which has suffered from the economic downturn and robust wireless competition that have kept prices low. Wall Street analysts predict the European market is ripe for a wave of consolidation similar to what happened in the United States over the last decade. Vodafone may need more financial resources to protect its market position or have the flexibility to buy out competitors.

The European wireless giant has been a quiet partner of Verizon Wireless for almost 14 years. Verizon Wireless was launched in 2000 as a joint venture of Bell Atlantic and Vodafone. As the venture was being launched, Bell Atlantic merged with GTE, forming Verizon Communications.

http://www.phillipdampier.com/video/CNBC Discussing the media deals 9-3-13.mp4

CNBC reports historically low interest rates and cheap credit for corporations made it an ideal time to structure a deal so important to J.P. Morgan Chase, the bank sent CEO Jamie Dimond to persuade Verizon board members to approve it. Investment banks will split more than one billion dollars in deal fees.  (7 minutes)

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