Vodafone to Proceed with Kabel Takeover

Vodafone has announced that it will proceed with its planned €7.7bn takeover of Kabel Deutschland, Germany’s largest cable provider, after the terms it offered the company’s shareholders were accepted by a large majority.

Vodafone’s offer to buy up shareholders’ stock at a price of €87-a-share received the backing of 75% of voters, the minimum percentage it needed to proceed with an all-out takeover.

“The 75% minimum acceptance condition has been met,” the Berkshire-based company said. “Vodafone will publish a final announcement with the definitive tender ratio of September 16.”

The company added that it will allow shareholders who chose not to accept Vodafone’s offer until September 30 to change their minds.

The move marks a significant pivot towards Europe for Vodafone, which earlier this month agreed to sell its stake in US phone company Verizon for $130m. It will allow the company to join the likes of Deutsche Telekom and Unitymedia – owned by Liberty Global, which also run the UPC brand in Ireland – in offering “Quadplay” services to consumers, bundles which allow customers to draw their internet, television, landline and mobile services from one provider.

The announcement caps a long week for Vodafone in Germany. Earlier this week three hedge funds declared that they intend to sue the company to get a better price for their shares, and it conceded that a hacker had made off with the names, addresses and bank account details of around two million of its German customers.

Among the hedge funds that intend to sue Vodafone is Elliot Management, Kabel’s largest shareholder and a significant backer of the company’s approach early on.

The deal is still subject to the approval of EU regulators. The European Commission expected to undertake a review in the coming weeks.


Russia to Build on Mediterranean Fleet by Drafting in Battleships

Russia has revealed its intention to build on its presence in the Mediterranean Sea by increasing its fleet in the region to up to 10 battleships.

The additional deployment will primarily concentrate on the Eastern Mediterranean, the area nearest the Syrian crisis zone, Victor Chirkov, the head of the Russian Navy explained.

“The task is crystal clear: to avoid a slightest threat to the security of the state. This is a general practice of all fleets around the world, to be there when a tension level increases,” Chirkov, who holds the rank of Admiral of the Fleet.

“They are all going to act on the operational command plan of the offshore maritime zone. Russia will be building up its fleet until it is deemed sufficient to perform the task.”

Russia has retained a constant presence in the Sea as a matter of policy since the end of last year, when the Syrian struggle began to escalate from an offshoot of the Arab Spring into an all-out civil war. Currently, it has seven warships patrolling the region.

Moscow’s announcement that it intends to add to its Mediterranean presence was compounded by its decision to send in its flagship missile cruiser, the Moskva – a powerful destroyer fitted with Vulkan missiles, weapons specifically designed to disable large vessels. The ship is being called in from the Black Sea, a region which contains a notoriously high number of Russian naval vessels, and is expected to arrive in the Mediterranean sometime over the weekend.

Chirkov noted that approximately 80 Russian naval vessels are currently operating in international waters, ready to be called to action.

Russia’s decision to move additional ships into the region comes despite it denying at the beginning of the month that it intended to beef up its presence.

At the time, the country’s naval command had criticised the US for adding to its compliment in the Sea. On September 3 the US Navy announced that it would add two warships to the three that were already patrolling the region, significantly boosting its firepower. Together the five now in the region boast upwards of 200 Tomahawk missiles.

Facebook Roll Out New Auto-Play Video Feature on Mobile

Social networking behemoth Facebook has rolled out its latest on-site feature – auto-playing videos in users’ News Feeds.

The move is the company’s most recent attempt to garner attention from prospective online advertisers, with video advertisements also set to be introduced alongside users’ own shared content.

Facebook, which has sought to address investor unease regarding its inability to convert app download figures and “likes” to real revenue since its initial public offering last year, moved to evangelise the impact the feature could have on its app advertising space.

The company explained that videos will begin playing as soon as users scroll over them in their News Feed, but will only begin playing sound once a user has clicked to expand the video. USA Today says that the effect is similar to the effect generated by videos on Vine – a video hosting site that has become immensely popular with teens over the last few months.

Facebook hopes that the feature, which will only be available through the social network’s app for the time being, will allow the company to compete for a slice of the video advertising market, a niche which is set to explode in popularity over the coming years. In 2016, online video advertising is expected to be worth around $8bn in the U.S. alone, double the $4.1bn it’s expected to top this year.

The company began the roll out by testing the feature on a small number of users in the US on Friday. It will expand to the rest of its US base, and eventually to the rest of the world, in the coming weeks.

TechCrunch notes that only videos which originate from the Facebook platform, or from integrated sites like Instagram, will play automatically. Embedded videos from third-party sites like YouTube and Vimeo will have to be played as normal.

The feature’s big reveal took place two days after the Federal Trade Commission announced that it is probing an alteration the company made to its privacy policy back in August. The FTC is investigating if the company infringed on the rights of its users by altering its policy in order to allow it to use users’ images and information for marketing purposes without the consent of the user.