In the Czech Republic and elsewhere in Europe, for the past several years, the question of to what extent technology from suppliers from China should be introduced into telecommunications and data networks has been discussed. Some countries have already banned or restricted elements from Huawei or ZTE. And if the upcoming new cybersecurity law passes, the Czech Republic will also get a tool for possible restrictions. Despite the loud fight with the Asian powerhouse, however, another controversy is not heard much: Arab investors have started to enter European networks, including Czech ones.
Activity in the European telecommunications sector is mainly shown by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which managed several large deals last year.
For example, the Saudis, through the STC state group, bought infrastructure in Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovenia from the United Group for 1.4 billion euros. Already at the end of 2022, they joined the Vantage Towers company, which is a colossus spun off from the Vodafone group operating telecommunications towers and other passive infrastructure. It is also active on the Czech market.
Last year, the Emirati state operator Etisalat (e&) acquired almost 15 percent of the British Vodafone, which also operates in the Czech Republic. The Emirates want to increase their stake in Vodafone Group to 20 percent. A few days ago, the British government called Etisalat’s entry a risk to national security. And it ordered the creation of an oversight committee to monitor the goings-on at Vodafone with regard to matters affecting national security.
Etisalat also announced the acquisition of a slight majority in part of the telecommunications assets of the Czech financial group PPF. The purchase price for operators in Bulgaria, Hungary, Serbia and Slovakia, together with contractual bonuses, could reach up to 2.5 billion euros, which would be the largest deal in the history of PPF. Approval by European regulators is pending.
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