Telenet issued a press release yesterday evening because it had the opportunity to review the new and slightly amended regulatory proposal regarding the opening up of the Belgian cable networks.
As a reminder, in late December last year, the Belgian telecom regulator BIPT and the regional media regulators announced an initiative to open up the Belgian cable networks (including Telenet) to other players, in an effort to stimulate competition in the Belgian triple-play market. Cable operators will have to provide wholesale offers in analogue TV and broadband to alternative carriers, and open their network for digital TV offers.
Telenet now states that while the revised proposal has taken into account a number of the concerns expressed by the cable operators, it sees the proposal still as largely inadequate and outdated.
The amendments to the proposal are as follows:
1) will no longer be permitted access to the the digital TV platform and broadband services of the cable companies
2) The flexibility regarding access to the DTV platform and BB services will be based on a strict framework
3) The pricing of the wholesale offer will be based on a retail-minus concept and will be defined through a separate consultation round
The amended proposal will be submitted to the European Commission, who has three months to examine the proposal. In case of a positive advice of the EC, the Belgian regulators will need to put in place a formal ruling,after which negotiations can be initiated to define the reference offer and the implementation, and this step will take at least one year. Telenet will have the occasion to appeal the final decision.
Telenet also repeats that it believes that the proposed regulation is unnecessary and outdated.
The regulatory proposal has only been slightly modified after the parties involved including Telenet could submit their concerns to the regulators. The big test of the proposal will now be the review by the EC in the next three months. Even if the EC would approve the proposal, it will take quite a long time before competitors will be able to offer products using the Telenet network, and will not be allowed to use the Telenet DTV platform or BB wholesale offers.
We continue to believe it is unlikely that the regulatory initiative will have a material impact on Telenet’s operational and financial performance, especially in the short run. We expect Telenet to vigorously defend its interests and attack the proposal in court if necessary.
Conclusion: No changes to our investment case, we reiterate our Accumulate rating and € 34 target.