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Vodafone buys Project Telecom

Founders trouser £100m

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Vodafone is buying Project Telecom, one of its airtime resellers, for £155m. The two founders and their families stand to make £100m from the deal.

In April, Project Telecom issued a profits warning and has been effectively in play ever since. The company has approx. 185,000 customers - too small, analysts say, to compete in today's hyper-competitive market. It seems reasonably safe to infer that Vodafone will strip out costs by subsuming customer service operations and in due course, will shut down Project Telecom. It is unclear if Vodafone accounts for all of Project's customer base.

Vodafone has been keen to assume full control of its customers by buying out airtime resellers. In March this year it bought Cellular Operations for an undisclosed sum to gain direct control of 380,000 customers formerly serviced by Cellular. It also inherited 90,000 02 customers through the deal. Presumably, mmO2 will be keen at some point to bring these relationships into its own fold.

Vodafone is also said to be keen to buy out Singlepoint, the airtime provider unit of the Caudwell Group, which also handles services for some O2 customers. Singlepoint is worth up to £400m.

In June this year, Vodafone closed down the Cellular Operations business, with the loss of 480 jobs at the firm's call centre. Today the company announced another 96 job cuts, with the closure of its Midlands customer service centre. It will now have two customer services centres, one in the North and one in the South. ®

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