Wednesday 7 December 2016

Verizon's Irish takeover is one block in global technology strategy

Sean Duffy

Published 03/08/2016 | 02:30

Stock photo: Depositphotos
Stock photo: Depositphotos

US telecoms firm Verizon has been making headlines all summer with a string of high-profile takeovers executives are betting will see it cornering a share of the emerging "internet of things" market, and transform the US group into a mainstay of the new economy globally.

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This week's €2.1bn purchase of the Irish-founded Fleetmatics is just the latest example of the US conglomerate extending its reach.

It came in the wake of a $4.8bn deal to buy one-time internet giant Yahoo Inc that was struck just last week.

The current round of deal making has been in the works for some time. Last year Verizon dispensed with its landline phone masts in 14 US states to raise capital for a strategic shift into alternative technology-based projects.

The company has used the $8.6bn (€7.6bn) raised from that sale to invest in everything from advertising to logistics.

The company's move away from its traditional roots as a "dumb pipe" utility-style telecoms firm has seen it rise to number 11 on the Fortune 500 list of global companies.

Buying Yahoo will see Verizon compete for advertising revenues and users with platforms such as Google and Facebook that have long piggy-backed on the infrastructure of traditional phone carriers.

Verizon had earlier purchased AOL for $4.4bn in 2015.

Yahoo cements Verizon's status in the US online market, by providing the firm with access to one billion unique monthly users.

The deals for Yahoo and AOL followed the purchase of Vodafone's 45pc in Verizon wireless, effectively giving the company complete control of the US's largest mobile phone carrier line.

That deal incidentally, handed many shareholders here an opportunity to claw back a little value from Vodafone shares originally received as a result Eircom's sale of Eircell.

Verizon posted revenues of €117bn in 2015 and that figure grew by 25pc in the first two quarters of this year, after the Vodafone deal.

The deal for Fleetmatics will see Verizon grow its influence in the GPS market for commercial fleets.

Founded in Templeogue in Dublin as a startup in 2004, Fleetmatics is a GPS logistics firm which was floated on the New York Stock Exchange in 2012.

The purchase of the firm is aimed at bolstering Verizon's Network fleet which helps big companies keep track of their haulage and logistics fleets. Last June Verizon purchased Telogis, a California-based logistics firm which was second only to Fleetmatics in the market.

The buyout of both firms underline the high value Verizon is placing on using tracking technology.

Telogis also supplies motoring giant Ford.

Verizon's share price has slipped since the deal for Fleetmatic was announced, but remains in strong territory at $54 a share.

While Verizon managers are overseeing dramatic changes, it remains a big employer of traditional workers, especially in the US.

The group has over 170,000 employees worldwide and operates in 2,700 cities.

Earlier this year it bowed to trade union pressure in the US to improved pay for workers after a seven-week stalemate.

The company was under pressure from shareholders to cut costs, but was forced into the climb-down on wages after 40,000 workers went on a union-backed strike.

Irish Independent

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