On the day that BT seeks shareholder approval for its mega-merger with MCI, it announced developments in southern Europe that put it at loggerheads with US giant AT&T.
The existing BT-MCI joint venture, Concert, has signed up Portugal Telecom as a strategic partner and is "80 per cent certain" to make a similar deal with Spain's national carrier, Telefonica, later this week, despite ardent wooing of Telefonica by AT&T.
The three major European consortia offering multinational telecomms services - Concert, AT&T-Unisource and Global One - have all been trying to snap up the two Iberian telcos. Portugal Telecom has been in talks with all three players for almost a year while Telefonica, which is already part of the AT&T-Unisource alliance, has been considering abandoning this, probably for Concert.
As part of the Portugal Telecom agreement, BT and MCI will buy a 1.5 per cent stake in the carrier, which will tomorrow also sign a share swap deal with Telefonica. Officially this is to strengthen planned joint ventures in Brazil, but is widely seen by analysts as a first step towards a three-way alliance with Concert. This speculation was intensified when Portugal Telecom referred to a "pan-American joint venture between MCI and Telefonica" in its statement about its own Concert tie-up - a reference it quickly withdrew.
However, observers say AT&T is keen to keep Telefonica within the fold of Unisource, a loose grouping that is the US number one's main vehicle for European expansion. Other members are the national carriers of the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland. The Spanish company is likely to face hefty penalty payments if it abandons Unisource.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago