Table: Europe's Big Get Bigger
True, the German giant's stock is down and investors are calling for CEO Ron Sommer's head. But German regulators are helping DT extend its dominance to broadband. DT already owns the Continent's biggest Internet provider, T-Online, and later this spring is likely to be scooping up cash-starved phone companies on the cheap.
When its Orange IPO disappointed in February, France Telecom promptly issued a $14 billion bond offering, the biggest in history. The company paid a high premium, but smaller competitors cannot raise even a fraction of that money, at any cost.
The British wireless giant was acquiring with stock much of last year, leaving it with the cleanest balance sheet in the European industry. Vodafone has proven the best at making money from voice calls. Look for CEO Chris Gent to ax costs and drive hard bargains with desperate suppliers during the downturn.