The telecom group Proximus wants to work more decentralized in the future. The well-known towers in Brussels’ Noordwijk will lose importance.
In the Proximus ‘twin towers’
In normal times, 5,000 to 6,000 employees are employed at Boulevard du Roi Albert II in Brussels. There are already a lot fewer because of the corona crisis, and there will be a lot less in the coming years.
‘We are working on a plan to reinvent our workplace. We strive for a digital campus in the form of a national network of workspaces, ”CEO Guillaume Boutin said Friday during the press conference on the third-quarter results. The plans are only in the reflection phase, but the company is aiming for a combination of working from home and teleworking in local hubs across the country. It is not yet clear how many that will be.
It is not yet clear whether Proximus will remain in the towers. According to our information, they are being renovated or sold. The company says it only plans to maintain a central campus ‘in Brussels’ where employees can come together for meetings and brainstorms. “There will also be customers who we can let experience our latest technologies and solutions,” says spokesman Fabrice Gansbeke. If it comes to a move from the towers, it will in any case not take place before 2023, according to Gansbeke.
The ‘twin towers’ near the North Station are completely outdated – they date from 1988 – and are far too large (105,000 m² above ground). The 28-storey towers – with an aerial 134 meters high, making it the sixth tallest complex in Brussels – fit perfectly in the spirit of the 90s to rationalize by centralizing more and more people at one large headquarters.
Since then, the workforce has shrunk significantly. More and more people are working from home. Today, thousands of employees are no longer working at the head office every day, but rather several hundred. Proximus can easily do it with one tower.
Boutin has previously stated that he wants to better valorise Proximus’ real estate, which has led to speculation about a possible sale of the towers. During the investor day in March, the CEO put forward an indicative real estate yield of 700 million euros. That money should help to finance the ambitious investment plans in super-fast internet via fiber.
The telecom group already has fiber optic cables running to 400,000 homes and businesses in 14 cities, and this week finalized a joint venture with Eurofiber to provide ‘at least 500,000’ connections in Wallonia. ‘We have the same ambition for Flanders and I hope to reach an equally ambitious agreement in the coming weeks,’ Boutin announced.
On another possible source of funding, the sale of its wholesale subsidiary BICS, Boutin said he hopes to have more details by the end of 2020. The economic crisis resulting from the Covid pandemic has sparked discussion about the company’s valuation, dragging on the sales file.
The Proximus CEO listed several more initiatives to support groups affected by covid. The culture sector will have the opportunity to broadcast events on special live channels on the Pickx platform.
Proximus also supports catering operators with discounts on their unused Proximus services, and provides 10 gigabytes of free data to customers active in the healthcare sector. Starting Sunday, the company will abolish download limits for residential landline internet customers, and will also be handing out additional free public Wi-Fi codes to students who don’t have internet at home.
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