TELECOM 99: Global One: 'We are here to stay'

Executives of Global One Communications said yesterday that they will remain in business even if two of their shareholders pull out. At the same time, they confirmed that "at least one" of the three will stay on board.

Global One, the provider of telephony services to multinational companies owned by Deutsche Telekom AG, Sprint and France Telecom SA, has been presumed dead in many published reports recently.

The speculation is due to the ongoing rift between its two European partners and the announcement last week that Sprint will withdraw from the alliance because of its pending merger with MCI WorldCom. France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom are locked in a legal battle, the fallout from Deutsche Telekom's failed bid for Telecom Italia SpA earlier this year.

"In the past year, Global One has been described as failing and broken apart, but we are still here," said Michel Huet, Global One's chairman of the executive committee and interim chief executive officer, speaking to journalists here yesterday.

Although Huet said at least one of its shareholders has confirmed it will stay in the alliance, the Global One executives here were anxious to paint the picture of an independent company that would survive even if all three of its shareholders deserted it.

"We needed the shareholders at that time (four years ago), but we have our own network, our own customers and critical mass," said Fred Rucker, executive vice president of sales and marketing. Global One has 200 corporate customers for its services that include international voice and data services, said Rucker.

Although Huet was described as "interim CEO", he said that Global One will run without a permanent CEO. "There is no search for a CEO. There is a common executive committee," said Huet. Global One's former chief, Gary Forsee, left in June.

Although the company has yet to turn in a profit, Huet insisted that Global One will soon reap the rewards of investment in infrastructure. "We have done this year what is necessary to be profitable in the future," Huet said.

The company, however, has had to change its focus in order to move toward profitability, said Huet and Rucker. With the price the company can charge for voice traffic falling dramatically, it is looking for new revenue streams. Aside from increasing its IP (Internet Protocol) and data-centric service offerings, the company is partnering with software vendors to offer its clients applications that can be downloaded from its data banks, said Rucker. "We are in serious discussions with world-class partners to bring these products to our customers," said Rucker, referring to ERP (enterprise resource planning). He didn't elaborate on who those partners are.

According to figures presented by the ITU today in a separate presentation, Global One's share of the international traffic market was 14.3 per cent last year, second only to an international telecom venture between British Telecommunications PLC and AT&T.

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