4.2 Opportunity report
Opportunity management is based on strategic planning and the resulting measures for the development of products and their positioning for various target groups, markets, and countries during the product life cycle.
The Group Management Board, as well as the operative management level of the respective business segments, have the direct responsibility for the early and continuous identification, assessment, and steering of opportunities.
The management team of United Internet AG makes extensive use of detailed evaluations, models, and scenarios on current and future trends regarding sectors, technologies, products, markets/market potential, and competitors in the Group’s fields of activity. The potential opportunities identified during these strategic analyses are then examined with regard to the critical success factors and existing external conditions and possibilities of United Internet AG in planning discussions between the Management Board, Supervisory Board, and operational managers before being implemented in the form of specific measures, targets, and milestones.
The progress and success of these measures is continuously monitored by operational management, as well as the managing directors and management board members of the respective companies.
Opportunities for United Internet
United Internet’s stable and largely non-cyclical business model ensures predictable revenues and cash flows, thus providing the financial flexibility to grasp opportunities in new business fields and markets – organically or via investments and acquisitions.
Broad strategic positioning in growth markets
In view of its broad positioning in current growth markets, the Company’s purely strategic growth opportunities are clearly apparent: universally accessible, permanently available, and increasingly powerful broadband connections are enabling new and more sophisticated cloud applications. From the current perspective, these internet-based programs for home users, freelancers, and small companies are likely to be United Internet’s growth drivers over the coming years – both as stand-alone products in the Consumer Applications and Business Applications segments, as well as in combination with landline and mobile access products in our Consumer Access segment.
Participation in market growth
Despite the uncertain macroeconomic conditions, United Internet – as well as many of the sector’s leading analysts – expects further progress in those markets of importance to the Company. United Internet is one of the leading players in these markets. At home and abroad. With its highly competitive Access products, its growing portfolio of cloud applications, its strong and specialized brands, its high sales strength, and already established business relationships with millions of private and business customers (cross-selling and up-selling potential), United Internet is also well positioned to participate in the expected market growth of both its business divisions.
Expansion of market positions
United Internet AG is now one of the leaders in many of its business fields. Based on its existing technological know-how, its high level of product and service quality, the widespread popularity of Group brands such as 1&1, GMX or WEB.DE, its business relationships with millions of private and business customers, and its high customer retention ratio, United Internet sees good opportunities to build on its current market shares.
Entry into new business fields
One of United Internet's core competencies is to recognize customer wishes, trends, and thus new markets at an early stage. With its broadly based value chain (from product development and data center operation, to effective marketing, powerful sales organization, and active customer support), United Internet is often faster at placing innovations on the market and – thanks to the high level of cash generation in its existing business fields – capable of providing them with strong marketing support.
When new opportunities appear on the horizon, United Internet is well prepared and also capable of financing many years of cost-intensive preparation thanks to its strong cash generation in existing business fields.
In 2018, for example, United Internet established the European netID Foundation (EnID) together with the media group RTL Germany and ProSiebenSat.1. The initiative's goal is to establish a European alternative to US providers with the single sign-on product netID. The Foundation has developed an open standard that enables users to access all partner websites of the European netID Foundation using the same login data. The Foundation reviews all standards, partners, and providers of user accounts within the initiative. With the open login standard netID, the Foundation focuses on the data sovereignty of each individual user. With the aid of netID, users can organize their consent to the use of online services via a privacy center which guarantees transparency and compliance with data protection regulations. netID is available to GMX and WEB.DE customers, as well as to customers of other netID partners, with the same log-in data. New users can create a netID account free of charge by using a combination of e-mail address and password. As part of the development of NetID, the United Internet brands GMX and WEB.DE have greatly reduced their ad space on the respective portals and at the same time are driving the expansion of data-driven business models for better advertising monetization.
Own landline infrastructure
Since its acquisition of 1&1 Versatel (2014), United Internet operates its own telecommunications network. With a length of over 50,000 km, it is one of Germany’s largest fiber-optic networks. This network infrastructure gives United Internet the opportunity to extend its vertical integration and also gradually reduce its purchases of wholesale broadband services.
In addition, having its own network also offers United Internet the opportunity to systematically expand its B2B data and infrastructure business with SMEs and large corporations. The scale of this opportunity is underlined by the considerable pent-up demand for direct fiber-optic connections in Germany. According to the latest survey of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development) in December 2020, only 5.4% (end of 2019: 4.4%) of all broadband connections in Germany are fiber-optic connections. An increase of just 2.2 percentage points compared to 2018 (3.2%). Germany thus lags well behind in 34th place among the 38 OECD countries surveyed, and is also well below the OECD leaders Korea (84.8%), Japan (81.6%), and Lithuania (76.6%), as well as below the OECD average of 30.6% (end of 2019: 28.0%).
Access to Telefónica mobile network
Following the merger with Drillisch (2017), United Internet – indirectly via 1&1 – is the only MBA MVNO in Germany with a long-term claim to a specific share (rising to 30%) of the used network capacity of Telefónica Germany, and thus has extensive access to one of Germany’s largest mobile networks. As a result, United Internet has contractually assured, unrestricted access not only to LTE (4G), but also to all further future technologies such as 5G. This will not fundamentally change after the switch to national roaming. When the 1&1 mobile network goes live, all new 1&1 customers and all existing customers who have migrated to the 1&1 network will have access to 1&1’s 5G network and, in areas that have not yet been rolled out, will automatically receive non-discriminatory access to Telefónica Germany’s mobile network via national roaming. From January 1, 2026, restrictions on access to Telefónica’s 4G national roaming network will apply in certain urban areas to be covered by 1&1’s 5G network by then.
As a consequence of the merger between 1&1 Telecommunication and Drillisch, United Internet can use its coordinated branding and customer targeting to address the German premium and discount segments more precisely, while achieving a high and comprehensive reach among its target groups with its differently positioned brands.
Establishment of own mobile communications network
As part of the planned rollout of its own powerful mobile communications network – and following its successful bid for two frequency blocks of 2 x 5 MHz in the 2 GHz band and five frequency blocks of 10 MHz in the 3.6 GHz band during the 5G spectrum auction in 2019 – United Internet concluded long-term agreements in the fiscal year 2021 and now has all key elements in place to drive forward the rollout of its own 5G mobile communications network and thus extend its added value in this market – as in its landline market. These agreements include the national roaming agreement between 1&1 and Telefónica concluded on May 21, 2021, which secures nationwide mobile coverage for 1&1 customers during the construction phase of United Internet’s own network through shared use of the Telefónica network, as well as the partnership announced on August 4, 2021 between 1&1 and Rakuten for the joint construction of Europe’s first fully virtualized mobile network based on the innovative OpenRAN technology. In addition, 1&1 signed an intercompany agreement with its affiliate 1&1 Versatel on December 9, 2021, which in particular provides the access network (especially fiber-optic cables) and data centers for operating 1&1’s mobile network on a rental basis, and on the same date an agreement was concluded with Vantage Towers AG, one of Europe’s leading companies for radio tower infrastructure, which among other things includes the renting of Vantage antenna locations and the installation of 1&1’s 5G high-performance antennas by Vantage.
With over 11.2 million mobile and over 4.2 million broadband customers, one of Germany’s largest fiber-optic networks, and a leading European position in app development, the United Internet Group is well placed to exploit the tremendous potential of 5G in Germany.
High degree of vertical integration for applications
In its Applications segment, United Internet covers the entire value creation chain. Applications are developed at the Company’s own “Internet Factories” or in cooperation with partner firms and operated on around 90,000 servers at the Company’s 10 data centers. This enables United Internet to maintain high quality standards and to respond quickly to customer needs and changing market situations in order to win new customers and retain existing ones.
Cloud applications can be used anywhere in the world and work on the same principle in Frankfurt as they do in London, Rome, or New York. In the past, United Internet has already successfully adapted cloud products – such as 1&1 MyWebsite – to various languages and country-specific features and gradually rolled them out in different nations.
Thanks to the high degree of exportability which these products offer, United Internet is already active in its Applications segment in numerous European countries (Germany, France, the UK, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia), as well as in North America (USA, Canada, and Mexico). Further countries and product rollouts will gradually follow.
Acquisitions and investments
In addition to organic growth, United Internet also constantly examines the possibility of company acquisitions and strategic investments. Thanks to its high and plannable level of free cash flow, United Internet also has a strong source of internal funding and good access to debt financing markets in order to utilize opportunities in the form of acquisitions and investments.
United Internet has enhanced its market standing in Germany and abroad, for example, by making several acquisitions and strategic investments while gaining considerable expertise in the field of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and company integration.
The most important M&A activities of the past include the acquisition of WEB.DE’s portal business (in 2005), the acquisitions of Fasthosts (2006) and united-domains (2008), the acquisition of freenet’s broadband business (2009), and the acquisitions of mail.com (2010), Arsys (2013), Versatel (2014; now 1&1 Versatel), home.pl (2015), STRATO (2017), ProfitBricks (2017; now IONOS Cloud), Drillisch (2017; now 1&1), World4You (2018), and we22 (2021). The most important strategic investments include the investments in Open-Xchange (2013), uberall (2014), Tele Columbus (2016), rankingCoach (2017), AWIN (2017; via the contribution of affilinet), and Stackable (2021).