Mobile World Live brings you our top three picks of the week, as Spain moved to buy a stake of up to 10 per cent in Telefonica, Iliad proposed a tie-up with Vodafone in Italy and Apple suspended sales of its latest smartwatches. Due to the holiday season, we will be taking a short publishing break, returning on 2 January 2024.

Spain to buy Telefonica stake

What happened: Spain’s economic ministry set the wheels in motion to acquire a stake in Telefonica through a state-owned holding company which will vie with Saudi’s stc to be the operator’s largest shareholder.

Why it matters: Stc’s plans to splash €2.1 billion on a 9.9 per cent stake in Telefonica caused controversy in the country, and the government has seemingly countered the move in an apparent bid to safeguard an asset deemed nationally important due to its role as a defence contractor. Considering the government’s investment, it is unclear if it will now follow through on placing restrictions on stc’s plan, which it was also weighing.

Iliad pitches Italy joint venture to Vodafone

What happened: Iliad outlined a proposal to combine its operation in Italy with Vodafone’s local unit, offering €6.5 billion in cash as part of a deal alongside a 50 per cent stake in the new venture.

Why it matters: Iliad CEO Thomas Reynaud explained the rationale behind its offer was driven by the market context in Italy which calls for the creation of a challenger to compete. For Vodafone, PP Foresight founder and CEO Paolo Pescatore said a potential deal was consistent with group strategy to focus on core growth areas. “There are few strategic options left in the so called big European mobile markets. You can’t rule out any options including a takeover or merger with any of the players.”

Apple to suspend sales of newest watches

What happened: Apple has been forced to stop selling its latest Watch Series 9 and Watch Ultra 2 smartwatches due to a patent ruling against the company by the International Trade Commission brought forward by devices company Masimo.

Why it matters: The row revolves around the use of a feature measuring blood oxygen levels, and while the ruling could hurt Apple’s holiday season sales, Radio Free Mobile’s Richard Windsor believes it will have a workaround planned given the prospect of a ban has been on the cards for around 11 months. He added the company’s share price “is barely registering the impact”, giving the analyst reason to believe a solution will be found before there is a meaningful sales hit.