BT to rebrand wireless assets O2

British Telecommunications PLC (BT) has renamed its wireless division mmO2 PLC and will brand the service O2 when the division is spun off into its own company later this year, BT announced Monday.

The wireless division, which is expected to be launched as a separate company in November, will begin offering services and products under the new brand in the second quarter of 2002, BT said in a statement. The name change from BT Wireless to mmO2 is effective immediately, BT added.

BT announced in May that as part of its effort to reduce its debt -- then standing at 29 billion pounds (US$42.18 billion) -- by more 9 billion pounds by March 2002, it would spin off BT Wireless as a separate company and rename the remaining segments of the company BT Future. According to a report published by the Financial Times newspaper on Monday, O2 will start life with a company debt of less than 1 billion pounds, a figure that BT disputed.

"We have always said that when BT Wireless is launched it will have debts of between nought and 2 billion pounds. The numbers in the report today are nothing that we have confirmed," a BT spokeswoman said.

Since May, BT has reduced its debt to around 17.5 billion pounds, in part through the sale of its online and print business directory operation Yell Ltd., and the sale to competitor Vodafone Group PLC of assets in Spain and Japan.

BT will hold a meeting for analysts on Wednesday to outline its plans for O2.

When mmO2 is launched it will have its own listing on the London Stock Exchange and will be the full owner of BT Cellnet Ltd. in the U.K., VIAG Interkom AG in Germany, Telfort Holding NV in the Netherlands, Esat Digifone Ltd. in Ireland and Manx Telecom Ltd. in the Isle of Man, BT said. The names of all the wireless divisions will be rebranded with the O2 name by the second quarter of next year when services begin, BT said.

As for the title O2, according to the BT spokeswoman, the name itself has no particular meaning, though the 'mm,' "could stand for multimedia or the mm, in Roman numerals could stand for 2000," she said.

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More about British TelecommunicationsBT AustralasiaBT CellnetBT WirelessEsat DigifoneManx TelecomO2Telfort HoldingVIAGViag InterkomVodafone

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