On 12 May 2022, Enders Analysis co-hosted the annual Media and Telecoms 2022 & Beyond conference with Deloitte, sponsored by Barclays, Financial Times, Meta, and Deloitte Legal

With up to 500 attendees and over 40 speakers from the TMT sectors, including leading executives, policy leaders, and industry experts, the conference focused on regulation, infrastructure, and how new technologies will impact the future of the sector 

These are edited transcripts of Sessions 7 and 8 covering: UK mobile and the opportunities and challenges of infrastructure. Videos of the presentations are also available on the conference website

Vodafone attributed its muted outlook for the coming year to macroeconomic headwinds but it has more to do with the German cable business, which is now in decline rather than being the growth engine that it was billed to be when acquired.

Value-accretive deals remain on the agenda but management are rightly reluctant to appear desperate—a difficult balancing act with the risk of missing out on further opportunities.

Substantial fibre investment in Germany looks inevitable, as does sustained competitive pressure there. Even if the former is off balance sheet, the combination will dampen hopes of growth and a progressive dividend.

Whilst we remain sceptical of the churn reduction benefits of fixed/mobile convergence, the pandemic and a more astute approach from the operators is enhancing the case for it in the UK.

Creating the impression of a giveaway whilst minimizing the effective discount is key, as is extracting any loyalty and cost benefits.

Even if well executed, any upsides are likely to be modest. Operators are right to keep discounts to a minimum and to avoid M&A premia predicated on fixed/mobile convergence synergies.

The recent shareholder pressure on Vodafone seems to focus on consolidation (where we see approval prospects as only slightly improved), Vantage (where a sell-down may create more value than an industrial merger), and improving operational performance (which continues to struggle).

The zero-growth German fixed business took another step down this quarter and looks set to worsen.  This will be central to growth prospects next year and a write-down of the investment looks inevitable.

A culture necessitated by a sprawling asset base may be holding back performance but any break-up would be costly and protracted, with real premium valuations achievable only with consolidation.

Many European telecoms operators are pursuing a fixed/mobile convergence strategy on the pretext that the addition of mobile reduces churn. We see no evidence of churn reduction from this strategy

Discounts required to encourage take-up of fixed/mobile services are often value-destructive, even before competitor reaction: a 10% bundle discount necessitates a 2ppt improvement in churn to wash its face economically. M&A premia on the basis of convergence synergies raise the hurdle even higher

Most UK operators offer very limited discounts on fixed/mobile bundles for now, sensibly focusing on enhanced services. Vodafone is the most aggressive, albeit less so than it is elsewhere. All UK players should hope that it stays this way

The rights auction for France’s Ligue 1 will be held on 29 May. With Altice’s struggling subsidiary SFR unlikely to bid, Canal+ and BeIN Sports may not offer enough to meet reserve prices, triggering a postponement of the auction

In Spain, stiff fixed-line competition is shifting battlegrounds from football to scripted content. The Champions League has yet to sign up a platform for next season, while the upcoming 2019-22 La Liga rights auction may well fail to increase domestic revenues

With just 12 weeks before next season kicks off, Italy’s Serie A is also yet to secure a broadcaster, although we expect the league to back down and settle with Sky. In this deflationary environment, top clubs are eyeing a new Club Word Cup as an extra revenue stream – running the risk of further widening the financial chasm between themselves and smaller clubs