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The Almighty Buck

KPNQwest Files for Bankruptcy 189 189

ives writes "Today KPNQwest filed for bankruptcy. KPNQwest owns the most important fibre backbone in Europe. Apparently they are not planning on switching off their network, but without maintenance it will probably slowly degrade. The official press release can be found here."
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KPNQwest Files for Bankruptcy

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    Does that mean they're spineless?

    bah-dum ching!
  • by Clue4All (580842) on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:13PM (#3618949) Homepage
    How are they going to pay for the lines or electricity that their network runs on, to say nothing of maintenance?
  • US Buyout? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by TibbonZero (571809) <Tibbon@gma[ ]com ['il.' in gap]> on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:14PM (#3618959) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps some US company that is looking to expand it's presence overseas (Like AOL) might buy the backbone. Just a possiblity

    • I hope not...
    • Don't they have laws protecting telecom stuff?
      i.e. Europe's major backbone shouldn't be held by an american company...
      • Re:US Buyout? (Score:2, Informative)

        by Wyatt Earp (1029)
        Why not?

        A Euopean company just bought America's second largest beer brewing and distributing company?

        In a Free Market, you should be able to buy whatever you want as long as you meet the terms the Regulators establish.

        In a case of an American company buying a European backbone, they would have to meet the terms of both the EU and the US FCC and FTC.
        • A Euopean company just bought America's second largest beer brewing and distributing company

          I believe that South African Breweries Plc is a South African company. Their stock may trade in London, but this doesn't make them European!
    • Didn't AOL/Time Warner just post the single biggest losing quarter in American corporate history? I doubt they have enough money even if they wanted to.
      • I'm not 100% sure on this, but I seem to remember seeing some news stories on this, and one of the reasons they seemed to have lost so much was a change in some of the generally accepted accounting methods used. That's apparently why a lot of businesses are seeming to posting larger losses than you'd expect to see. According to the same news broadcasts, the anamoly should fix itself up within a quarter or two.

        Of course, IANAAccountant, but I seem to remember seeing at least one or two stories on this, and I believe AOL was mentioned. FWIW.

        J
    • Perhaps the Hackers over there will have a 'hostile takeover' of the backbone, not like anyone will really notice for a while....

      BTW, when is it going to be an unmanned backbone? That's when the crazyness will start...
      br
    • If the bankruptcy laws in Europe are like the ones in the US you probably won't see this happen.

      To buy a bankrupt company, you must for all intents and puropses buy its debt.

      You also won't see anyone be able to buy up the fiber at a bargain price, because the shareholders will want to get as much money out of it as possible. (Remember the @HOME fiasco?)

    • Re:US Buyout? (Score:1, Informative)

      by ebmedia (527536)
      From heise.de [heise.de]:
      According to media reports the carriers AT&T, Cable & Wireless and the Spanish company Telefonica are interested in taking over the net. Allegedly, AT&T has already made an offer of 200 million US dollars.
    • Re:US Buyout? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by j7953 (457666) on Friday May 31, 2002 @04:02PM (#3619236)

      The problem is, they're losing money on the backbone. According to several articles I've read, they're far from using its full capacity. That's why they ran out of money, after all. KPNQwest probably already did look for new investors, and obviously didn't find any. (Yes, it probably is cheaper to buy the network in a few weeks instead of investing now, but on the other hand in a few weeks the customers will already be operating via other providers, so the KPNQwest network will be even less profitable by then.)

      Parts of the network may be valueable to companies that already have an infrastructure in Europe and are looking to expand certain parts of it, but I very much doubt that any company will buy the whole backbone.

      • Downscaling some of the backbone perhaps? Sell parts on Ebay? Get it down to the point that it is profitable again. It sounds like they built too good of a network for their own good.

    • what about ....

      ...
      QWest ?

      Uh.., I forgot :-(

  • There is too much moola to be lost if no one does.
  • Shit (Score:4, Interesting)

    by KinkyClown (574788) on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:15PM (#3618966)
    This is weird: I have to read this first on a foreign website! I am Dutch myself...
    • Actualy this was mentioned on the 6 and 8 o'clock news on nederland 1 and 3.. Old media isnt that dead yet ;-)
  • No maintenance? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sniepre (517796) <sniepre@gmail.com> on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:15PM (#3618969) Homepage
    I have a strong suspicion, that lack of maintenance is not the primary danger that the network would face, but rather the fact that if anyone chooses to own the network up, or do some *experimental routing* that there is nothing that would be done about it!

    Hacker paradise! :D
    • Hmm. Indeed, what are the legal implications with this? Surely if the comany goes bankrupt and cease to exist, then the pipes become un-owned? And so are not governed by anyone? Leaving people to do pretty much whatever they want?
    • We got that base covered. After scenes in one of our offices after the initial announcement on wednesday security on the Core got increased manifold.
  • Who is next. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BagOBones (574735)
    I keep hearing about all this unused fiber here in canada.. Wonder how much money is being lost on it.. I don't think any of the companies here will go under, most of the fiber is owned by large divers telacom /cable companies here..
    • When you say that nothing is likely to happen there because they are owned by large telecom / cable companies, i think you kinda missed the point ;-)

      KPN/Quest is/was the largest and fastest fibre network in europe, and is/was owned by KPN Telecom (NL/Europe) and Quest (Mainly US), both of which are very big cable -)
    • ...that the incremental cost of laying "extra" fibre is inconsequential. The difference between laying 1 and laying 20 is the additonal - trivial - cost of 19 strands... it's all the same hole, and it's a one-time bill.

      The cost of lighting-up that same extra fibre is _not_ incremental but geometric. Each strand requires significant (and expensive) kit at either end, as well as an increasing the local copper-cable volume... which is why there is so much "excess" capacity the world over, not just Canada.

  • by Graspee_Leemoor (302316) on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:16PM (#3618976) Homepage Journal
    They should sell the network on ebay. I bid $1!

    graspee

    • According to some information [www.ix.de] at the german news service Heise [www.ix.de], the operational costs for the ring are at about 1millionUSD per day.

      You probably want to reconsider your bid?:-)

      As mentioned in previous posts, Heise [www.ix.de] has in depth coverage of the story, mostly german, but there is always a (...) fish [altavista.com].

      • He could buy it on eBay, get an assload of low interest credit cards, buy a bunch of shit at Corporate CC rates, file for Federal Bankruptcy protection, give the stuff he bought to friends and family, pay himself a million dollars, resign and let the creditors fight for the remains, and then get a job as a corprate restructuing CEO/CFO.
        ;)
    • After all of you have finished having fun with your little joke I would just like to get seri...

      $10!

      Goddamit, I'm not letting some AC beat me to 0wning a huge network!

      graspee

  • by Anonymous Coward
    We need companies with thick spines to own the internet backbones - we don't want them to break!
  • ooops.... we went bust... sorry about your bandwidth.....

    Now if only they would take Qwest with them!
  • dumbass question (Score:4, Insightful)

    by JeanBaptiste (537955) on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:22PM (#3619012)
    Is this in any way related to the evil phone company (errr... monopoly) here in America that is called Qwest?

  • "... without maintenance it will probably slowly degrade..."
    From experience, KPNQuest has been slacking off for quite some time. Someone please just put them out of their misery and try to clean up the mess.
  • i think (Score:2, Informative)

    by paradesign (561561)
    in one last burst they should have the worlds largest lan party on it. largest as in it would be physically the size of the fibre network. if only for records sake.
    • except that if it was the size of their fibre network, it wouldn't very well be a LOCAL area network, now would it?

      //Phizzy
  • I wonder when microsoft is going to jump in and "save the day" :-/
  • More coverage (Score:5, Informative)

    by moonbender (547943) <moonbender@@@gmail...com> on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:30PM (#3619065)
    There's an in-depth article available in English from the German Heise.de [heise.de] newsticker. Read it here [heise.de].
    There's also a brief article on The Register [theregister.co.uk] available here [theregister.co.uk].

    Just thought I'd add a few tidbits since the news post doesn't actually link to any objective press coverage, company press releases are usually not the best way to inform oneself.
  • Why is it that a company that can charge virtually anything they want to for their services (as they are THE provider) chooses to charge an insufficent amount, thereby ensuring bankruptcy? Idiocy? Surely!
  • by clinko (232501)
    But this internet thing will continue to balloon forever!!!

    It'll make money like crazy!

    That company didn't have a good marketing plan. See, my company is going to make money off of the internet with "web banners" because that's where the real money is!

    What? noone looks at banners???

    oh shit.

  • Too bad ./ and it's network can't buy it. That would be a pretty awesome thing for them to have. Somewhat useless if it wasn't really utilized, but cool.

    Perhaps all the european ./er routed though there they could really pound sites when they are first posted about

  • by j7953 (457666) on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:47PM (#3619153)

    Where did you get that quote from about them not planning to switch it off? Here's a quote from the press release:

    The Company is working with its customers to facilitate the implementation of contingency plans, should the current situation result in instablility or a total shut-down of the KPNQwest EuroRings network.

    Since this is from their own press release, of course they don't just write "we'll stop operating," but that's pretty much what the above quote says they're expecting to happen.

    If you look for some more neutral information than their own press release, you might be interested in this heise online article [heise.de] (yes, it's an English article).

    • No, it doesn't. We're guaranteeing the core will stay up till monday morning when the administrator in Brussels will turn up and then decide what to do.

      Shutting down the core is the stupidest thing they could as that would mean the network becomes worthless. (after all selling part of the business as a going concern brings in more cash than an asset sale).

      However you need to be responsible and be honest, and it's now that we can't offer any guarantees about the core. SLAs are out of the window, which is what a lot of the guarantees are about.

      Even the subsidiaries (those that are self-funded or still have money (like the one I work for)) were told to put contingency plans in place in case the core goes dark.
  • Can anyone explain how the two companies are related? Which is a subsidiary of which?
  • by schnell (163007) <me@noSPaM.schnell.net> on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:52PM (#3619187) Homepage

    Some people have posted asking about how they're going to pay for keeping their network up, but that most likely isn't an issue, since you don't have to be *out* of money to file for bankruptcy. What they're trying to do by declaring bankruptcy is buy some time to find additional buyers. I'm not sure whether the rules in the EU are the same, but here's how it works in the US:

    In the US, the two most common bankruptcy options are to file under Chapter 11 or Chapter 7 of the US bankruptcy code. Chapter 7 filings are what you do when you realize you've irrevocably screwed the pooch, and there's just no way you are ever going to make it. Ch. 7 means you've cashed your check, game over - your assets will be liquidated (sold) to scrounge up whatever cash possible for the companies you owe money to. Everybody goes home, then the earth is sown with salt under your company headquarters.

    Chapter 11, however - this is what I presume they're using the European equivalent of - means you think you can turn things around, but you can't do it just yet or you can't do it because your existing debts are too big. You can declare a Ch. 11 bankruptcy when you've still got lots of cash - that's to keep things up and running while you work out a plan to pay back your existing debts.

    There's a good side and a bad side for companies filing Ch. 11 - the good side is you get to keep on going, and you don't have to pay back any debts you ran up before you filed! Most of the time, courts will rule that the companies that provide you with critical services (like power, fiber, leases, etc.) can't shut you off during your bankruptcy, even though you've just (potentially) stiffed them for zillions of dollars. This is likely what KPN is doing.

    The down side is that you no longer control your company - the courts do. And they pay lots of attention to what your creditors (those folks you stiffed) ask for. Your job is to come up with a plan to pay those creditors back over time for a reasonable amount (anywhere from 10% to 80% of your orginal debt, most likely). If your creditors don't like the plan, or think that they'd get more money back by shutting you down and liquidating assets than allowing you to live and try to pay them back, they can get the courts to probably shut you down. Also, don't forget that your credit is now hosed.

    So ... I wouldn't worry about KPN's lights going off anytime soon. They probably filed the EU equivalent of Ch. 11 while they had plenty of cash in the bank to keep it running while they look for someone to buy their assets (probably the only chance they have of satisfying their creditors).

    • In some countries, when a corporation's liabilities exceed the value of the corporation, it *must* file for bankruptcy. In the last three months this happened to telecommunications provider Netia [netia.pl], a Nasdaq traded company that has managed to grow its revenue every year since formation. and by all accounts looks to have a promising future.

      Because of accounting and laws though, this healthy company was legally compelled to file for bankruptcy and submit to reorganization.

      Bankruptcy isn't necessarily a terrible thing, and as the parent post says, there is a good side. I imagine KPNQwest will weather this handily.
    • I'm not sure that the rules are the same throughout Europe, but they tend to be significantly nastier here than in the US. Often there is no equivalent of Chapter 11. There have been a fair few suggestions recently to make the EU rules (a) the same as each other and (b) more like the US ones.
    • Chapter 11, however - this is what I presume they're using the European equivalent of -

      nope, they did that last week already. today they filed for bankruptcy.
    • Fantastic overview. Mad props!
    • I've already seen a few dutchmen reply about the KPNQWEST situation, so let me just give you the theoretical background on your great post.

      Under dutch law, the equivalent of Chapter 11 is called 'surseance van betaling' (delayed payment), which means that the court will grant a company a delay in paying off the creditors, so that it can get its finances in order. As in the US, this is usually bad news and may lead to the next worse condition.

      This next condition, the dutch equivalent of Chapter 7, is called 'failliet'. It occurs when 2 or more creditors ask for immediate payment and the debtor can't pay. The creditors can then ask for the court to declare the company bankrupt. A court-appointed curator will then divide up the companies assets among the creditors. It is possible (wat KPNQ did) to enter banktrupcy voluntarily.

      Although I know only about dutch banktrupcy law, AFAIK the rest of Europe is more or less the same. I may not be a lawyer, but I did take two years of law school, and I work in securities, so I ought to have this right.


      Mart
      • And it was several days ago they filed for surceance (Chapter 11-like). At that time last week curators were appointed.

        Yesterday morning they filed for and were declared bancrupt. Since then the curators are trying two things, keep the value of the assets as high as possible and try to find buyers.

        I heard one of the curators in a radio interview and he said they'd keep on most of the personnel to continue maintenance.

        He said the "burning rate" of the company is about 7 million Euro per week, nothing compared to the total dept.(Between 1800 and 2200 million Euro)

    • Covad communications, a US based DSL provider, recently emerged from bankruptcy.

      In the process, they were able to restructure their debt into equity for the most part, and reduce their operating costs.
  • letting it explode (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LinuxGeek8 (184023) on Friday May 31, 2002 @03:57PM (#3619217) Homepage
    It's just that KPN and Qwest do not want to invest much more money in KPNQwest.
    So the plan might be to just let it explode, buy the remaining assets, and start a new company.

    That's a likely scenario here in Holland.
    It is what happened to DAF (trucks) and other companies.
    They go broke, and in the same time they start a new company with the bought assets of the old one.
    Your debts are cleared, and the tax accountants aren't wanting money from you anymore.

    Still I expect it would cost money to buy the assets, so if they really do not want to invest anything in that network anymore, it makes my story just a wild guess.
  • They say in their press release:

    The efforts to try and sell certain non-critical assets in order to secure sufficient cash proceeds to meet the ongoing obligations of the company have not been successful. This situation is not expected to change over the next 24 hours.

    Now why would this be? Let's see:
    1. the The EU has just banned spam [slashdot.org]
    2. Qwest is the biggest spam source [spamcop.net] on the net

    Qwest simply saw its European spam hosting plans go down the drain and called it a day... Hey, maybe those spamsupporters were right after all about the guideline being bad for the economy and all *g*
  • by Zarhan (415465) on Friday May 31, 2002 @04:01PM (#3619234)
    I've read on this [tietoviikko.com] finnish news site that KPNQwests network will be/was shut down at 17:30 BTC, and since they are currently in daylight savings time, that should mean 16:30 UTC. The article states that the source is at www.silicon.com [silicon.com], however, I couldn't find the information in there right away.

    In article, they also mention that the KPN's British offices will be/was shut down around midday. I'm not sure on whether this means today (Friday) or tomorrow (Saturday). Probably today, which meant that the network went down like four hours ago..

    • by Zarhan (415465) on Friday May 31, 2002 @04:06PM (#3619263)
      Ah. I found the information. However, I cannot provide a direct link, because they use unique user ID's in the URL. You can find the article at silicon.com by clicking the bit about KPNQwest right at the front page and then checking on the "related articles". Here are the most important bits pasted:

      Europe's largest fibre optic network operator, KPNQwest, is set to shut down its entire operations at 17.30 (BST) today after the collapse of rescue talks with potential buyers and banks.

      The source said that employees in the UK office have been informed they will not be receiving any redundancy packages and are currently being instructed on how to appeal to the government to reclaim what they are owed.

      A second source close to the situation confirmed the details. At 11:55 (BST), the source told silicon.com: "Try ringing any phone in the office in five minutes and you won't get an answer."

      However, the article later states that

      A spokesman from KPNQwest denied the allegation. He said: "That (network shutdown) is not happening today. The holding company KPNQwest NV has filed for bankruptcy as have five subsidiaries in the Netherlands. A number of other divisions of the company including the UK have filed for protection from creditors.

      So, I probably should have tried to find the source article a bit more vigorously before posting...
      • KPNQwest is not (yet) down.

        Here's a fragment from a traceroute done at 22:43GMT:

        10 10 ms 10 ms 10 ms nl-ams-ri-03-pos-4-0.chellonetwork.com [213.46.161.62]
        11 10 ms 10 ms 10 ms Asd-nr19.NL.kpnqwest.net [193.148.15.97]
        12 20 ms 20 ms 10 ms nllei5101-tc-g1-2-1.12.kpnqwest.net [134.222.96.81]
        13 20 ms 20 ms 20 ms deham5101-tc-p0-1-0.0.kpnqwest.net [134.222.230.18]
        14 20 ms 30 ms 20 ms debln5201-tc-p0-1-0.0.kpnqwest.net [134.222.230.37]
        15 30 ms 40 ms * czpra5101-tc-p2-0-0.0.kpnqwest.net [134.222.230.46]
        16 40 ms 40 ms 30 ms UNKNOWN.KPNQwest.net [134.222.110.250]
        17 50 ms 50 ms 60 ms cz.pl1.pl.geant.net [62.40.96.46]
        18 60 ms 50 ms 50 ms pol-34-gw.pl1.pl.geant.net [62.40.103.110]
        19 70 ms * 60 ms 212.191.224.250
        20 100 ms 71 ms 70 ms task-pg-rtr.task.gda.pl [153.19.252.33]
        21 70 ms 60 ms 60 ms pg-ci2-rtr.task.gda.pl [153.19.252.30]
    • bollocks.

      We're not going dark, we're pretty much guaranteeing the core will stay lit till monday morning when the administrator will start in Brussels, even then we're not saying it will go dark. What will happen on monday depends on the administrator.
  • good riddance (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dunkelfalke (91624)
    kpnqwest provided the backbone to a quite big german hoster - strato. i can remember that strato had failures twice a week and they always blamed kpnqwest and kpnqwest said they will get better... they didn't really.

    too bad for the employees, tho.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Rumors are that maybe even the network will be shut down within the following days as it costs abour a million dollars per day to keep it running. But that's just a small part of the picture.

    KPNQwest also operates a couple of data centres - and one of them is providing all technical facilities for hosting about a third of germany's web sites for Strato [strato.de].

    Strato is considering [heise.de] to either buy the affected data centre or to plan an alliance with Cisco, IBM, Microsoft and Cable&Wireless to provide new technical facilities for their hosting business.

    Strato received quite some bad press when one of their storage units unexpectedly shut down last year and it took almost a week [heise.de] to have their websites up and running (breaking their 99% uptime guarantee) - so right now, competitors are ligning up to take their customers as it isn't clear if KPNQwest's network will be working over the weekend and what plans have been made to ensure the availability of the Strato-websites.

  • Surely, a company that provides vital services for so many businesses has a lot of customers (by virtue of providing vital services to many businesses). So how can they go banckrupt?

    Can't they just raise prices if they cannot operate at the current levels? If their services are vital, people will pay (or switch to another carrier, but this is another matter)

    (ok, i don't understand economy very well, but could someone please explain it?)
  • I read this a week ago on The Register [theregister.co.uk]. And while it wasn't the actual filing of bankruptcy, it was certianly the beginning of the process.
  • How long is it going to take for an "underground" to form that taps into these fiber networks that are being abandoned by telecoms? Is there a precedent for this? Abandoned phone networks, abandoned power distribution grids? I understand that many of these backbones need very, very expensive equipment to "light 'em up," but it would seem that it would only be a matter of time before a sort of "private" 'Net was started using these abandoned fiber runs (both in Europe and in the US ... only 3% or so of American fiber is being used, right?)
  • by Carnage4Life (106069) on Friday May 31, 2002 @04:43PM (#3619489) Homepage Journal
    Recently on Slashdot there was an article complaining about the increasing costs of broadband [slashdot.org] yet the fact of the matter is that a large number of large telecoms are going out of business because they spent too much, too fast and make too little to keep up with their debts.

    Global Crossing [thedigest.com], PSINet [convergedigest.com], and STAR [thedigest.com] all bankrupt while WorldCom [usatoday.com], in trouble and Qwest taking a several hundred million dollar loss [usatoday.com] it looks like the number of telecommunications companies is shrinking fast and it is unclear what will happen to their networks.

    Not to be a contrarian, but this just goes to show that things aren't really black and white when it comes to the cost of broadband and in fact we may be getting it cheaply considering how much was spent building the networks.
    • I disagree. If there were many companies fighting to bring bandwidth into your house, you wouldn't care if the least efficient / successful of them croaked. That's totally different than a monopoly raising prices because "whatcha gonna do about it?" Long-haul networks simply don't suffer the monopoly problem that last-mile networks have. Coincidentally(?), long-haul bandwidth is cheap and there's a glut of it.
  • This is only the Dutch KPNQwest. Several KPNQwest subsidiaries in other countries will continue their services on the EuroRings network, and at least KPNQwest Finland has promised to connect their network to another backbone is EuroRings fails.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 31, 2002 @05:02PM (#3619582)
    Currently circulating in Holland - translated:

    If you bought 1000 euro of Nortel Networks stock last year, today you'd have 59 euro.

    If you bought 1000 euro of KPNQwest stock in January 2000, today you'd have 12.50 euro.

    If you bought 1000 euro of Alcatel stock in January 2000, today you'd have 170 euro.

    If you bought 1000 euro of L & H stock in January 2000, today you'd have 170 euro CENTS.

    But if you spent 1000 euro last year on full crates of Heineken, and drank it all, today you'd have 380 euro of (bottle) deposit money.

    Moral of the story: the most economically responsible solution is to sit on the couch all day watching soccer on TV with a beer in your hand.

    • But if you spent 1000 euro last year on full crates of Heineken, and drank it all, today you'd have 380 euro of (bottle) deposit money.

      Your gov't adds over 50% of the value of a beer in DEPOSIT fees? Holy crap, I thought $.10 was a little much!
      • No, it's not that bad. It's the deposit on the crate that is the biggest part of the total deposit.

        A crate of beer sells for about €10,-. The deposit on the crate is about €2,25 and the deposit on the bottles is about €0,07. There are 24 bottles to a crate, you do the math yourself.

        I don't know the exact prices, as I am usually not in charge of the beer purchases among my friends. I will know for sure this afternoon, as I need to buy some for my birthday party.

        Mart
  • As anyone who has ever been forced to use their service knows, Qwest can (and regularly does) screw up a wet dream.
  • This story [cnn.com] brings to life an assumption I had.

The rate at which a disease spreads through a corn field is a precise measurement of the speed of blight.

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