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Vodafone snaps up Singlepoint

Wants to turn 1.1m network users into customers

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Vodafone has announced it will buy Singlepoint, the mobile services provider, for £405 million ($649.62 million) in cash.

Singlepoint is a subsidiary of the Caudwell Group and it provides billing and customer care services to more than 1.3 million mobile phone subscribers, most of whom are consumers rather than business customers. The company buys 'space' on mobile networks in bulk and sells it on to customers. Up to 90 per cent of Singlepoint customers are said to be on the Vodafone network.

After the buyout, Vodafone will have full control of the Singlepoint customers on its network, without paying Singlepoint's 25 per cent commission. O2 has about 150,000 customers through Singlepoint, and analysts say that Vodafone is likely to try to convert these subscribers to its network.

Singlepoint will boost Vodafone's consumer rather than corporate customer base. Though its corporate base seems to have been taken care of with the firm's £155 million acquisition last week of Project Telecom, adding in the region of 200,000 customers to its fold.

Vodafone chief executive Arun Sarin is continuing the approach of predecessor Christopher Gent, which was characterised by takeovers and acquisitions. Gent retired last month after six-and-a-half years in the job. In March, Gent saw through the buying of Cellular Operations for an undisclosed amount. The deal gave Vodafone direct access to 380,000 customers, and saw it inherit 90,000 O2 customers.

In June Vodafone closed down the Cellular Operations business, cutting 480 jobs in the process. Last week the mobile phone giant announced it was cutting another 96 job, with the closure of a customer services centre in the English Midlands. Some analysts have said that Singlepoint is also likely to be closed by Vodafone after it is fully integrated into the group.

Other industry watchers are speculating about negotiations between Vodafone and the Caudwell Group with regard to Vodafone's access to Caudwell's Phones4U, one of the leading mobile phone retailers in the UK. ®

Copyright © 2003, ENN

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