BERLIN -- It's not unusual for people to want to take a breather after a big meal to ensure proper digestion. Corporations, apparently, are no different.
( DT) on Tuesday said first-half net income excluding asset sales fell nearly 30% to 681 million euros ($607 million) from 951 million euros. But far more interesting than the figures -- many of which had already been released in July -- the former state-run monopoly also announced it would be taking a small acquisitions nap to try to sleep off its multibillion-dollar supper of
, and, through it,
In its attempt to become a truly global telecommunications player, Deutsche Telekom plans to take over the U.S. wireless operators for roughly $50 billion and $6 billion, respectively. But the hefty costs involved with establishing a beachhead in the key U.S. market, coupled with the high price for building its position as a third-generation wireless provider in Europe, has weighed heavily on the company's share price. In Frankfurt trading Wednesday it fell 1.28 euros, or 2.9%, to 43.41 -- down substantially from its peak of more than 100 euros in March.
announcement that Deutsche Telekom would first try to stomach what it had already scarfed before looking to expand further helped buoy the stock Tuesday. But his resolve to take a break and attempt to integrate VoiceStream and Powertel may weaken if other deals come along. That, naturally, could have dire effects for DT's share price going forward.
After Deutsche Telekom forked out nearly $8 billion for a German UMTS, or Universal Mobile Telecommunications System, license earlier this month, shareholders started to get queasy at the amount of money the company would have to spend to stick to its goal of becoming a pan-European third-generation wireless operator. Although Sommer would probably like to hold off until he's got the VoiceStream deal securely past U.S. regulators, the pressure to consolidate in the European telecom sector may not let him.
Plus, the Powertel deal showed, should the right opportunity arise, Sommer is not going to be shy about digging in. If a choice takeover candidate presents itself either in Europe or elsewhere, many analysts expect Deutsche Telekom would not hesitate to liquidate even more of what had been a $100-billion war chest prior to the VoiceStream bid.
And the equity markets Wednesday showed that investors don't believe Sommer can hold back, either. Only one day after he said Deutsche Telekom wanted to concentrate "integrating effectively and productively" its latest purchases, old speculation resurfaced that the company was preparing a bid for French telecommunications and construction group
Bouygues' cash-strapped telco unit is considered the likeliest target for foreign operators hoping to garner one of four French UMTS licenses to be awarded next year. Since DT would likely have to bid for the entire company and not just the telecom unit, Bouygues shares surged 4.45 euros, or 6.9%, to 69.10 in Paris Wednesday.
"Management still has some important gaps in its international strategy in France and Italy,
which won't be easy or inexpensive to fill," says Douglas Wight, an analyst for
in London. Even though he rates Deutsche Telekom shares accumulate, Wight sounds a cautionary note for investors: "There isn't a strong case for buying Deutsche Telekom relative to other European telecom shares at current values." Commerzbank has an investment banking relationship with Telekom.
If Sommer does decide to splash out and make further purchases to plug those gaps sooner rather than later, Deutsche Telekom's share price is likely to continue to languish or be driven even lower. However, Sommer probably ignores potential acquisitions at his own peril, which could jeopardize the company's long-term strategic position. That would almost certainly give him heartburn.