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MCI WorldCom

The dominant company in the telecommunications world to be created since the deregulation of state-owned telephone company monopolies began in the mid-1980s. It provides a full range of telecoms voice and data services in 65 countries, with the bulk of its business in the US.

The company began in 1983 as a discount re-seller of off-peak long-distance telephone time and came to widespread public attention in 1997 when it outbid BT for MCI, the second-largest US long distance phone carrier.

MCI was founded in 1963 to build a microwave radio telecommunications system between St Louis and Chicago. Five years later it began to develop plans to challenge the US monopoly phone company AT&T. MCI began anti- trust proceedings against AT&T in the late 1970s, was first awarded damages in 1980, and four years later won the landmark decision that prompted US deregulation.

n Turnover for 1 October to 31 December 1998: pounds 4.84bn - up 14 per cent on last year.

n Market cap: pounds 932.1bn.

n Share price: $83.5 (pounds 52).

British Telecom

BT provides local and long-distance telephone services in the UK. It links the UK grid to the telecoms grid worldwide. It owns 60 per cent of the mobile phone company Cellnet. Last year it signed a joint venture deal with AT&T to provide international services with its international grouping, Concert. It has equity stakes in 43 joint ventures worldwide.

The company generates more than 90 per cent of its turnover. But it is gradually losing market share to more than 100 licensed telecoms operators in its home market. Last year it unveiled its strategy to compete for a dominant position in the exploding internet market and signed a joint venture with Yahoo!, the American web site portal company.

n Turnover for 1 October to 31 December 1998: pounds 4.68bn - up 15 per cent on last year.

n Market cap: pounds 698.8bn.

n Share price: pounds 10.80.

National shares of European telecoms market ($bn pa)

Country 1997 % mkt

Germany 35 25%

UK 31 22%

France 19 14%

Italy 18 13%

Spain 9 6%

Netherlands 6 4%

Switzerland 5 4%

Belgium 3 2%

Austria 2 2%

Sweden 2 2%

Portugal 2 1%

Ireland 2 1%

Denmark 2 1%

Norway 2 1%

Finland 2 1%

Total 140

Source: Merrill Lynch estimates.