Chirac calls for EU telco bail-out

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Europe's debt-laden telcos must be given aid by the European Union or lose their pre-eminent position in the global telecommunications industry, French President Jacques Chirac has told a summit of European leaders.

Chirac described auctions for 3G licences, which have left many of Europe's carriers struggling with huge debt burdens, as “scandalous”.

Though short on specifics, Chirac told the summit that the European Commission should come up with proposals to bail out the carriers in time for a new summit in March 2003.

Chirac blamed 3G licence auctions for the estimated €120 billion of debt carried by the telcos, as well as the loss of 200,000 jobs.

"I don't want to prejudice any decisions," he said. "But Europe must react."

France Telecom, which is still 55 percent owned by the French government, has been one of the carriers to suffer most following the downturn in the sector.

The majority of the €70 billion the company carries in debt comes from purchasing 3G spectrum licences.

On top of the debt from spectrum licences, European operators will reportedly be required to spend another €100 billion Euros to build the 3G networks the licences were purchased for.


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