PHILADELPHIA — Bell Atlantic [NYSE: BEL] today announced it exercised rights to increase its ownership in Omnitel Pronto Italia, Europe's second largest wireless carrier and one of the world's fastest growing wireless businesses, to 23.1 percent.
An original partner in Omnitel, Bell Atlantic began with an 11.66 percent stake in 1995 before increasing its equity position twice, in '97 and '98, to 19.7 percent. Today's acquisition boosts Bell Atlantic's ownership by another 3.4 percent.
This third buy-up in two years solidly positions Bell Atlantic as Omnitel's second largest shareholder.
"This most recent ownership increase demonstrates just how excited Bell Atlantic continues to be about the future of Omnitel and the Italian telecoms market," said President and CEO of Bell Atlantic International Wireless Tom Bartlett. "I would be hard-pressed to find another wireless business that generates the kind of pure value that Omnitel provides.
"In its first three years of operation Omnitel increased its customer base to over 7 million, won international awards for outstanding customer care, built a network that covers nearly all of Italy's geography, and significantly exceeded all of its financial objectives including revenue generation, operating cash flow, and net income. All in a market that will boast more wireless than wireline phones by the end of the year."
*includes shares to be transferred to Mannesmann from the upcoming sale of Olivetti's interest in their Oliman partnership.
Recently, Bell Atlantic also received rights to another 2 percent ownership in Omnitel Pronto Italia. Those rights may be exercised by January 2001 and would extend Bell Atlantic's ownership in Omnitel to more than a quarter of the business.
The Bell Atlantic Global Wireless Group is one of the world's largest wireless communications companies, with US wireless operations in 24 states and international investments in Latin America, Europe and the Pacific Rim.
Worldwide wireless holdings total 187 million proportionate POPs (people in markets served), with more than half in high-growth international markets like Italy, Mexico, and Greece. The worldwide proportionate wireless customer base totaled more than 9.1 million as of March 31, 1999. International proportionate subscribers comprise nearly 25% of Bell Atlantic's global wireless customer base.