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In 2001, Europe’s state-owned or formerly state-owned telephone companies were in trouble. Having overspent in the late 1990s on projects such as third-generation mobile phone technology – condemned as a white elephant – and buying or building internet service providers – most no longer operational – the incumbents were encumbered with debt as the new millennium was dawning.

Despite, or indeed because of its parlous condition, the industry desperately needed capital. But at the same time bond

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