TEXT-Fitch: European austerity drives negative telecom outlook

Tue Dec 11, 2012 10:00am EST

Dec 11 - Link to Fitch Ratings' Report: 2013 Outlook: European Telecoms and
CableDec 11 - The impact of austerity measures on European telecoms revenue is
the main driver of the negative outlook for the sector in 2013, Fitch Ratings
says. We expect much greater pressure in the south than in the north, with a
clear divide likely to continue due to GDP contraction in southern Europe.
Consolidation in the sector would be a big help in improving profitability in
light of the intense level of competition, although the stance of regulators
remains uncertain.

Many European operators are bracing themselves for a swath of cuts to their
mobile termination rates (MTR) in 2013, with voice and data roaming charges
probably next in line for steep reductions. The hardest hit by the MTR pressures
are likely to be southern European operators, including in Italy and Spain,
particularly those without large fixed-line franchises.

Dozens of networks operate in Europe compared with just a handful in the US.
This significantly reduces economy of scale advantages for European telecoms but
also limits their cost-cutting headroom. We expect competition to remain
extremely intense because even if in-market mergers do get regulatory approval
they are likely to be slow to materialise. Meanwhile, the emergence of cable as
a strong facilities-based competitor in many European countries will continue to
eat into the incumbents' market shares.

Competition has played into the customers' hands: subscribers are able to renew
their contracts on better terms, leading to lower average revenue per user.
Incumbents are particularly at risk because their high legacy data tariffs mean
that a higher share of their revenue is at risk.

For more information about likely drivers of M&A - and other topics - read our
2013 European Telecoms and Cable Outlook, available at www.fitchratings.com.


The above article originally appeared as a post on the Fitch Wire credit market
commentary page. The original article can be accessed at www.fitchratings.com.
All opinions expressed are those of Fitch Ratings.