VEON – Transition from telco to consumer IP communications platform

Introduction to Veon

Geographical footprint and brands

Veon came into being at the start of 2017, a rebrand of VimpelCom. The Amsterdam-based telco was founded in its current form in 2009 when shareholders Telenor and Alfa agreed to merge their assets in VimpelCom and Ukraine’s Kyivstar to create VimpelCom Ltd.

Veon is among the world’s 10 largest communications network operators by subscription, with around 235 million customers in 13 countries (see Figure 1).

Figure 1: Veon’s geographical footprint (September 2017)

Source: Veon, STL Partners

The telco operates a number of brands across its geographical footprint (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Veon’s brands (September 2017)

Source: Veon, STL Partners

Veon’s largest market is Russia, where it has over 58 million mobile subscribers, making up 24% of its global total. Pakistan and Bangladesh comprise its second-largest markets by subscribers, while it has over 30 million customers in Italy under its Wind Tre brand, a joint venture with CK Hutchison (see Figure 3).

Figure 3: Veon mobile customers by region, H2 2017 (millions)

Source: Veon, STL Partners

A brief history of Veon

  • 1992: Veon began life as Russian operator PJSC VimpelCom in 1992.
  • 2009: VimpelCom Ltd. founded as Telenor and Alfa Group (Altimo) agree to merge their assets in VimpelCom (Russia and CIS) and Ukraine (Kyivstar).
  • 2010: VimpelCom acquires Orascom Telecom Holding (operating in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Algeria) and Wind Italy from Egypt’s Naguib Sawiris.
  • 2017: VimpelCom Ltd. rebrands as Veon.

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The somewhat unusual development of both Veon’s shareholder structure and geographical footprint means the telco faces some unique challenges, but has also enabled a degree of flexibility in the company’s path to transformation.

Veon’s shareholder structure – an enabler of transformation

At the time of writing, Veon is 47.9%-owned (common and voting shares) by Alfa (via investment vehicle LetterOne), and 19.7% by Norway’s Telenor (with the remaining 32.4% split between free float and minority shareholders).

This structure means that the company is less beholden to dividend-hungry shareholders, allowing the telco more ease of alignment than many of its contemporaries. This extra “breathing space” also allows change to occur faster with fewer levels of managerial approval required, whilst the board of directors has given its backing to Veon’s transformation journey, offering full “top-down support”. Nevertheless there is some doubt about how the transformation plans will be greeted at local OpCo level, and the group faces some serious cultural challenges in this area.

Faced with lacklustre organic growth and in the face of headwinds of currency devaluations in its former Soviet markets, Veon has chosen to, in the words of CEO Jean-Yves Charlier, “disrupt itself from within”.

Reversing the revenue decline

Speaking at Veon’s rebrand in February 2017, CEO Charlier spoke of how the telco sector has been backed into a corner by aggressive disruptive start-ups like Skype and WhatsApp, meaning the industry now needs to reinvent itself and find new paths to growth.

The company began by improving its capital structure, in part through the consolidation of operations in two of its largest markets, with the mergers of Mobilink and Warid to form Jazz in Pakistan, and the formation of joint venture Wind Tre from Wind Italy and CK Hutchison’s Tre (3).

Veon states it has realigned its corporate culture and values, introduced a robust control and compliance framework, and significantly cut its cost base, and the operator returned to positive revenue and EBITDA growth in the second quarter of 2017.

Contents:

  • Executive Summary 
  • Introduction to Veon
  • Veon’s digital strategy
  • What are the strengths of Veon’s offering?
  • What must Veon do to succeed?
  • Will Veon make it work?
  • Introduction
  • Introduction to Veon
  • The path to total transformation
  • Veon’s digital strategy
  • Reinvent customer experience
  • Network virtualisation
  • The product
  • An omni-channel platform
  • The strengths of the holistic platform
  • Can Veon’s consumer IP communications proposition succeed? 
  • Can Veon beat the GAFA and Chinese giants to the market?
  • What must Veon do to succeed?
  • Conclusions

Figures:

  • Figure 1: Veon’s geographical footprint (September 2017)
  • Figure 2: Veon’s brands (September 2017)
  • Figure 3: Veon mobile customers by region, H2 2017 (millions)
  • Figure 4: Veon revenue and EBITDA, Q4 2015-Q2 2017 ($ billion)
  • Figure 5: Veon’s transformation from telco to tech company
  • Figure 6: Penetration of leading social networks in Russia (2016)
  • Figure 7: Veon IT stack scope of responsibilities
  • Figure 8: VEON app screenshots – a IP communication platform
  • Figure 9: Veon app access requirements
  • Figure 10: Comparison of consumer IP communications plays
  • Figure 11: Veon – a SWOT analysis

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Partnering 2.0 – How TeliaSonera Makes Beautiful Music with Spotify

Introduction

An agile approach to building and managing complex partnerships is one of the key elements of becoming a Telco 2.0 organisation. As discussed in our previous report on Digital Partnering Strategies, we see two new trends in telco approaches to digital services partnerships:

  1. The focus on partnering as a core competency of the telco organisation;, and
  2. The increasing complexity of telco partnership ecosystems, as digital services, enabling technologies, and service delivery value chains continue to evolve.

The increasing complexity of digital services partnerships, and the related trend for larger partnership ecosystems with many partners participating from different levels of the value chain, require telcos to take a different and more flexible approach. To be effective, this approach needs to take into account, and support, the particular characteristics of digital businesses:

  • Need for scale: A potential digital services partner will usually want to build global scale and so is likely to have several telco partners.
  • Need for speed: Digital services partners will in many cases move at very different speeds from telcos in terms of decision-making and processes,
  • Need for flexibility: particularly for channels and business models. Digital services partners (especially those with consumer propositions) are likely to use a variety of distribution channels, some of which will bypass, or compete with, the telco partner (particularly for OTT B2C content services such as Spotify). For both B2B and B2C partnerships, business models and revenue sharing arrangements are likely to be fluid and to involve multiple parties.

Based on our observations from TeliaSonera’s long-term relationship with Spotify, and from our earlier analysis of AT&T’s successful Drive connected car ecosystem, we have identified a set of key success factors, and major barriers, for effective digital services partnerships between operators and third parties.

In this report, we evaluate the TeliaSonera-Spotify partnership against this framework, as well as looking at the drivers for the partnership, the quality of execution, and the evidence of its success.

 

  • Executive Summary
  • Introduction
  • TeliaSonera’s partnership with Spotify: Overview
  • A B2C single-focus partnership
  • TeliaSonera’s rationale for the deal: Part of being a ‘New Generation Telco’
  • Evidence of the partnership’s success
  • Drivers and key success factors for the TeliaSonera-Spotify partnership
  • Drivers and objectives for TeliaSonera
  • Benefits of the TeliaSonera partnership for Spotify
  • Key success factors for TeliaSonera’s partnership with Spotify
  • External/Market-Driven (demand-side) factors
  • Internal / organisation (supply-side) factors
  • Organisation structure and the approach to managing joint activities have been important
  • Challenges to successful digital services partnering – lessons from other music partnerships
  • Barriers to successful partnering: framework
  • Spotify vs Deezer: the tale of tape

 

  • Figure 1: Characteristics of single-focus digital services partnership models
  • Figure 2: Spotify Key Metrics, 2014-2016
  • Figure 3: TeliaSonera-Spotify 7-year partnership timeline
  • Figure 4: Spotify Global Monthly Active Users and Premium (Paid) Subscribers, 2009-2015
  • Figure 5: Telia Denmark Mobile and Multiplay Packages With Spotify Premium Options, February 2016
  • Figure 6: Spotify Business (Soundtrack Your Brand) promotion, Feb. 2016
  • Figure 7: Drivers and key objectives for TeliaSonera-Spotify Partnership
  • Figure 8: Key success factors and barriers for TeliaSonera-Spotify Partnership