Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Google offers new concessions to avoid fine in EU antitrust case

A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

A Google logo is seen at the entrance to the company's offices in Toronto September 5, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Chris Helgren

BRUSSELS | Mon Sep 9, 2013 6:19am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Google has offered further concessions aimed at ending a three-year investigation into complaints it was blocking competitors and to avert a possible $5 billion fine, the European Commission said on Monday.

The new proposal comes two months after the Commission, which is the European Union's antitrust regulator, asked the world's most popular search engine for more measures to sooth concerns that it was blocking competitors, including Microsoft, in web search results.

"The Commission received a proposal from Google and is assessing it," EU Commission spokesman Jonathan Todd said. He did not provide details nor say if rivals would be given a chance to assess the concessions.

"Our proposal to the European Commission addresses their four areas of concern. We continue to work with the Commission to settle this case," Google spokesman Al Verney said.

Lobbying group FairSearch, whose members include Microsoft and other complainants such as online travel agency Expedia, British price comparison site Foundem and France's Twenga, urged the Commission to seek feedback from rivals.

"Given the failure of Google to make a serious offer last time around, we believe it is necessary that customers and competitors of Google be consulted in a full, second market test," FairSearch lawyer Thomas Vinje said in a statement.

Google, which has a market share of over 80 percent in Europe's Internet search market according to research firm comScore, told the Commission in April it would mark out its services from rival products in internet search results.

It also proposed to provide links to at least three competing search engines and make it easier for advertisers to transfer their search advertising campaigns to rival platforms.

But rivals said Google's offer was inadequate and would only reinforce its dominance.

The Commission has said Google may have favored its own search services over those of rivals and copied travel and restaurant reviews from competing sites without permission.

The EU executive is also concerned the company may have put restrictions on advertisers and advertising to prevent them from moving their online campaigns to competing search engines.

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee; Editing by Mark Potter)

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Monday, October 14, 2013

KPN says finance chief leaving for personal reasons

KPN's Chief Executive Officer Eelco Blok (R) and Chief Financial Officer Eric Hageman speak after the presentation of the 2011 fourth quarter and annual results in The Hague January 24, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Kooren

KPN's Chief Executive Officer Eelco Blok (R) and Chief Financial Officer Eric Hageman speak after the presentation of the 2011 fourth quarter and annual results in The Hague January 24, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/Michael Kooren

BRUSSELS | Mon Sep 9, 2013 2:23am EDT

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Dutch telecoms group KPN, the subject of a takeover bid by Mexico's America Movil, said on Monday its chief financial office Eric Hageman had resigned with immediate effect, only a year after taking the job.

The group said in a statement that Hageman was resigning due to personal circumstances and that this was not related to working relationships or the present situation of the group.

"KPN will make a further announcement regarding the CFO role as soon as possible," KPN said.

Hageman was appointed chief financial officer and a member of the management board in September 2012. He had been interim CFO since January 2012 when his predecessor, Carla Smits-Nusteling, unexpectedly quit citing objections over internal governance.

KPN said in its statement that Hageman had made an important contribution to the raising of capital, notably a 3 billion euro ($3.95 billion) rights issue, in 2013 and the intended sale of German mobile unit E-Plus to Telefonica.

The statement made no mention of America Movil, which has bid 2.40 euros to buy the shares in KPN it does not already own.

The Mexican company, controlled by billionaire Carlos Slim, owned nearly 30 percent of the Dutch group until a foundation tasked with protecting the interests of KPN exercised an option to give itself about 50 percent of KPN's voting stock, diluting America Movil's stake.

The move dents the prospects of Slim's proposed 7.2 billion euro offer.

($1 = 0.7600 euros)

(Refiles to remove extraneous word from headline)

(Reporting By Philip Blenkinsop; Editing by Sara Webb)

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

NTT DoCoMo to sell iPhone in Apple stronghold Japan: sources

A man walks past the logo of Japan's biggest mobile phone operator NTT Docomo at its shop in Tokyo in this July 3, 2013 file photograph. REUTERS/Issei Kato/Files

A man walks past the logo of Japan's biggest mobile phone operator NTT Docomo at its shop in Tokyo in this July 3, 2013 file photograph.

Credit: Reuters/Issei Kato/Files

By Sophie Knight

TOKYO | Fri Sep 6, 2013 5:21am EDT

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japan's biggest mobile carrier NTT DoCoMo Inc is expected to start selling iPhones as soon as autumn, helping Apple Inc extend its reach in a country where it has more than three times the market share of rival Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

DoCoMo has long resisted offering the iPhone to its 60 million customers due to differences with Apple over branding and sales margins, but has lost market share to smaller rivals Softbank Corp and KDDI Corp, which have been selling Japan's best-selling smartphone since 2008 and 2011, respectively.

DoCoMo is expected to begin selling the iPhone as early as this autumn, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

The sources, who declined to be named due to the confidentiality of the discussions, did not detail the conditions of the agreement.

Other sources have said sticking points between the two companies were DoCoMo's requirement that its logo to be imprinted on all the phones it sells, while Apple insists its products are sold unaltered.

Market watchers have also speculated that the U.S. tech giant demands that iPhone sales make up more than 50 percent of a carrier's total handset sales, while DoCoMo has said it is only willing to go up to 20-30 percent.

Asked about the iPhone deal, DoCoMo said in a statement that it had nothing to announce on the matter. Apple could not be immediately reached for comment.

Analysts said both companies had probably struck a mutually beneficial compromise.

"It's possible Apple were more flexible with DoCoMo because obviously it's a large carrier and it's somewhere they could get new unit volumes to come through," said Nathan Ramler, head of Asia telecommunications research at Macquarie Capital Securities in Tokyo.

The Nikkei business daily, which first reported the news, said an announcement was likely to come next week, when Apple unveils the latest version of the iPhone on September 10 in the United States.

Japan is an important market for Apple, which is facing tough competition from Samsung's Galaxy series and other devices that use Google Inc's Android platform.

More than a quarter of all smartphones sold in Japan are iPhones, according to Tokyo-based IT consultancy MMD, while Apple had a 13 percent global market share in the second quarter of this year.

DoCoMo plans to offer winter promotions on handsets made by Sony Corp, Sharp Corp and Fujitsu Ltd.

With Blackberry Ltd having decided not to offer its latest Blackberry 10 and the models that support it in Japan, pressure from corporate clients mulling a switch to the iPhone may have been another factor spurring DoCoMo to make a decision.

"The enterprise customers are definitely important for DoCoMo," said Macquarie Securities analyst Ramler. "And we've seen Apple working hard to improve its corporate solution with the iPhone, so it's possible that was part of the consideration as well."

Shares in Softbank, the first Japanese carrier to offer the iPhone, fell 2.5 percent, while KDDI dipped 0.2 percent. DoCoMo gained 0.5 percent after opening up more than 3 percent. The benchmark Nikkei average fell 1.5 percent.

(Reporting by Maki Shiraki and Nobuhiro Kubo; Editing by Chris Gallagher and Miral Fahmy)

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