D.Telekom rows back on comments on investments, T-Mo
PARIS, Sept 29
PARIS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Deutsche Telekom on Thursday disavowed comments made by Chief Technology Officer Olivier Baujard in an interview with Reuters a day earlier, in which he said the company was reconsidering its German investment plan and weighing possible backup plans if its proposed sale of U.S. unit T-Mobile to AT&T was blocked.
Andreas Fuchs, a spokesman for the German operator, said: "Mr. Baujard is not a member of the board or the management of Telekom Germany [the German operation]. Baujard is not involved in the decision processes of either, and he is in particular not involved in the sale of T-Mobile or investments of Deutsche Telekom in Germany."
Fuchs' statement reverses what Baujard said in a recorded interview conducted by two Reuters reporters in the presence of a corporate press officer.
During the interview, Baujard said that the company believed the T-Mobile U.S. deal would eventually be approved by regulators and that the current stance of U.S. authorities was "hardball negotiating tactic."
Baujard said: "Of course we cannot guarantee that it gets through, and we are thinking of what would be a Plan B, a fallback."
Deutsche Telekom agreed to sell its U.S. unit to AT&T for $39 billion in March, but U.S. regulators have sued to block the deal on the grounds that it would be bad for consumers and discourage operators from improving their networks.
Separately in the interview on Wednesday, Baujard spoke of how the dimming macroeconomic outlook was leading Deutsche Telekom to re-examine its capital expenditure plans. "We are now to reveal our plans to be much more capex efficient," he said at that time.
Asked whether he confirmed the company's goal to invest 10 billion euro in its fixed and mobile networks in Germany from 2010-2012, Baujard declined to do so.
He then added: "I cannot say that yet. But if I don't say that, you can imagine what we are starting to think about...It is something we are working on."
But Fuchs, the company spokesman, repeated the 10 billion goal on Thursday. "These plans have not changed," he said.
On the company's website, Baujaurd's role at Deutsche Telekom is described in this way: "As Chief Technology Officer for the entire Group, Olivier Baujard is responsible for the Group-wide engineering, deployment and operation of fixed, mobile and carrier infrastructures."
On the issue of the sale of T-Mobile in the United States, Fuchs also expressed a view different that of the chief technology officer.
"Deutsche Telekom is convinced that the sale of T-Mobile USA is the best solution for the consumer. Of this we want to convince the Department of Justice in concert with AT&T," he said in an emailed statement. "There is no Plan B."
The planned exit from the United States is key to the company's strategy to strengthen its German business by investing in its network while seeking growth in emerging markets of Eastern Europe.
The operator had also planned to plough some of the proceeds from the T-Mobile deal into share buybacks as a way of rewarding shareholders after years of declines in its share price. (Reporting By Leila Abboud; Editing by David Cowell)