The telecoms group has suffered a dramatic stock market correction following its Q3 results, as investors woke up to the continuous decline of its main unit, France’s SFR – leading its CEO to resign. Closure of a tax loophole will further erode SFR’s revenues by up to 4% in 2018

Despite being France’s largest fibre network, SFR’s broadband market share dropped 4ppts over three years. Notwithstanding grandstands on ‘convergence’ and expensive rights acquisitions, it is losing pay-TV subscribers – it looks unlikely to challenge Vivendi’s Canal+ in next year’s Ligue 1 auction

The mobile performance is notably better with the subscriber count stabilised and ARPU rising. Besides sustaining network deployments, to turn around SFR Altice needs to abandon short term fixes, invest in its workforce and customer service, and differentiate through valuable innovation – in other words the opposite of the model followed so far 

21CF’s bid for 100% ownership of Sky has been referred for a Phase 2 investigation to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which will decide by 6 March 2018

Third parties Avaaz and Ed Miliband MP complain of the influence of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) and family members over the UK’s news agenda and political process 

A remedy could insulate Sky News from this influence. The offer of a Sky News Editorial Board at Phase 1 was refused. Third parties will ensure the debate in Phase 2 is very lively

The Federal Communications Commission’s Privacy Order (FCC) was overturned by the Senate, clearing the way for ISPs to ramp up consumer data-driven advertising revenue.

While Google and Facebook dominate digital advertising in the US as in other markets, the US is alone in removing regulatory barriers to ISPs taking a piece of the pie.

US ISPs now have a self-regulatory regime for consumer rights on transparency, security and data breaches; but in the UK and EU, privacy advocates prefer enforceable rights.

Across Europe, markets are becoming more competitive. Incumbent pay-TV paltforms (e.g. Sky or Canal+) face increasing threats from both internet-based services (e.g. Netflix and Amazon), and telecoms operators

Telecoms providers are proving the most potent challengers as they enter the premium football rights market to create attractive triple and quad play bundles – examples include BT, SFR and Telefónica. The latter is now the main pay-TV operator in Spain whereas France’s Canal+ has entered into a strategic alliance with Orange

Across the top five markets (UK, France, Germany, Spain, and Italy), Sky remains the leading operator with an estimated 21.5m video subscribers, twice as many as Netflix

 

Secretary of State (SoS) Karen Bradley has made an initial decision to refer 21CF’s bid for Sky to the Competition Markets Authority (CMA) for a detailed consideration of media plurality concerns, to be finalised in the near future

The issue at hand is the potential increase in the influence of the members of the Murdoch Family Trust (MFT) over the UK’s news agenda and political process. The SoS rejected the remedy for Sky News brokered by Ofcom

Ofcom’s non-negative decision on the fitness and propriety of 21CF to hold Sky’s broadcast licences cleared another hurdle in the event the merger is finally accepted

Sky delivered 5% year-on-year revenue growth over the first nine months at constant exchange rates, although operating profits fell due to several factors, most notably the massive step-up in UK Premier League TV payments under the new contract

On closer inspection, relatively weak UK & Ireland Q3 revenue growth compared with previous quarters largely reflects one-off special factors 

Otherwise, positive quarters for Sky Germany & Austria and Sky Italy and improving cost efficiencies suggest that the Sky Group remains broadly on track to deliver its Investor Day 2016 guidance objectives

France’s first round of the presidential election on 23 April looks set to deliver a run-off on 6 May between nationalist Marine Le Pen and pro-EU, pro-NATO reformer Emmanuel Macron, who holds a 20 point lead in that contest – a much higher margin than last year’s mistaken projections for Clinton and Remain

Should Mr. Macron become president and win a majority in the June parliamentary elections, a challenge for nascent party En Marche!, his reformist platform would tackle France’s main economic issue: low employment. The anticipated privatisation of Orange could launch a burst of media and telecom M&A 

A defeat of Marine Le Pen and a new reformist French government could relaunch the partnership with Germany, making the EU more confident in its future, and improving auspices for a sensible Brexit

The UK intends to exit the EU on 29 March 2019 and will submit the hoped-for agreement on a new strategic partnership with the EU to a vote in Parliament

The EU and the UK agree to seek an early settlement on the rights of 4 million nationals and the Irish border. Incentives diverge on the size of the UK’s Brexit bill

Unless a withdrawal agreement is reached, the EU will balk at starting talks on the UK’s desired free trade agreement (FTA), making a hard Brexit more likely than not