Telia ‘could be split up’

TeliaSonera could be split up, Sweden's government has said, with the phone network and services put into separate companies.

Infrastructure Minister Åsa Torstensson has commissioned a report from Sweden’s telecoms regulator, PTS, on how the company could be split. It has also asked PTS to look at alternatives to splitting the Swedish-Finnish corporation, which is made of both countries’ former monopoly telecom providers.

TeliaSonera’s competitors complain that the current system, in which Telia owns the network over which all telecoms companies operate, gives the company an unfair advantage. Other operators currently have to buy bandwidth on the copper network from Telia.

Telecom companies such as Telenor say that Telia’s control over the traditional phone network has hindered the development of broadband in Sweden.

In a statement released on Thursday, Torstensson appeared to agree with Telia’s critics.

“Sweden has fallen behind in rankings showing the number of homes with broadband connections. I hope that PTS can work out a proposal that will create greater possibilities for more households to get broadband,” she said.

Telia, which is 43.5 percent owned by the Swedish state, has resisted calls to separate, but the company has vowed to change its system to give its competitors fairer access to its network.

The PTS enquiry is due to be completed on 15th June. The regulator has been asked to create “clear rules of engagement” for all companies in the telecoms market.

The government has previously announced that it plans to sell some or all of its stake in TeliaSonera, as part of a wide-ranging privatization programme.


‘Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera

Swedish-Finnish telecom operator TeliaSonera has been accused of “rotten” business dealings in Azerbaijan, following a separate bribery scandal in Uzbekistan.

'Rotten’ business claims at Nordic TeliaSonera
A TeliaSonera conference in Stockholm last year. Photo: TT

Folksam, which is one of the largest insurance companies in Sweden, has accused the firm of “systematic cheating”, after it emerged that TeliaSonera’s subsidiary in Azerbaijan had ties with the family of Ilham Aliyev, the Arab nation’s leader.

It has been claimed that the dictator’s daughters were shareholders of TeliaSonera's subsidiary Azertel, via a connected company based in Panama.

“It is distressing that in a large Swedish company…people thought that cheating would pay off in the long run,” Carina Lundberg Markow, one of Folksam’s managers told the TT news agency on Wednesday.

She criticized TeliaSonera for failing to act “in an honest and open way” when entering new markets.

“Instead, they choose to pay for success,” she added.

TeliaSonera is one of the biggest telecom operators in the Nordic and Baltic countries and also operates in several emerging markets in Eurasia including Russia and Turkey, as well as Spain. The Swedish state owns 37.3 percent of the company.

Swedish prosecutor Gunnar Stetler is already investigating claims of unethical business practices in Uzbekistan and told TT he had also been given new information concerning potential bribery in Azerbaijan.

The company has voluntarily cooperated with the investigation, handing over what Stetler describes as “extensive information” about “the terms and conditions in Eurasian countries”.

Stetler said he was unable to discuss how he had responded to the information. But calls are growing for TeliaSonera to release a public report about its business dealings.

“Now it is extremely important to create transparency,” said Lundberg Markow.

“This shows the importance of having a set of values when doing business in complex markets or countries,” she added.

TeliaSonera and Norwegian rival Telenor recently merged their operations in Denmark, while the telecoms giant last year purchased rival Tele2's Norwegian division for 5.1 kronor.