Nokia to sell off luxury phone brand
Gem-encrusted blower biz on block
Nokia is planning to sell off Vertu, its wholly-owned luxury-phone brand, which sells basic mobile phones with classy cases to the overpaid.
The FT reports the news, which Nokia hasn't yet confirmed, but the paper reckons Goldman Sachs has been appointed to oversee the sell-off, which is likely to see the UK-based Vertu put into the hands of a private equity group. Vertu's profit, as part of Nokia, isn't public, but the FT pegs an annual revenue somewhere between €200m and €300m – which isn't bad for a company that re-cases mid-range Nokia handsets.
The brand was created in 1998, but didn't manage to ship one of its hand-crafted-precision-engineered handsets until 2001. These days Vertu has around 600 outlets, but you won't see many on the high street, as they're tucked inside Harrods or situated in the kind of shopping mall which only welcomes the unreasonably rich.
The handsets are pretty, one might even go so far as to say stylish in being understated rather than the gauche blanket of gemstones which adorn so many hundred-thousand-pound handsets*. But Vertu is certainly in that price bracket, with even the most-basic model costing several grand despite being rewrapped Nokia technology. That's in part 'cos of the concierge service which comes with the handset: a button on the side which summons aid from a constantly available staff. Anyone buying the company may well have an eye on that service, which engenders customer loyalty as well as providing some ongoing revenue from commission on booking flights and such like.
The business is certainly a long way from Nokia's core, and with Nokia rearranging itself as a supplier of Microsoft-running hardware it's not surprising to see peripheral businesses being flogged off.
Today's Vertu handsets are Symbian-based, as a Nokia subsidiary Vertu is tied to its parent's technology with Windows Phone expected to follow, though with a new owner that could change even if the appearance, and engineering, are unlikely to do so. ®
* We once asked a supplier about the security of such handsets, and were informed that their customers already had bodyguards so mugging and theft were less of a risk.
Symbian is cutting-edge for Vertu
... only the very latest Vertus are Symbian based. Previous models used (wait for it...) Series 40.
The only time I saw one of these being used was when some Arab prince's one rang in front of me on Bond St in London. The phone was taken out, glanced at, then tossed backwards to the bag-man who made an excellent leg-slip catch and answered it.
Beautifully made phones, and yes, the styling is "restrained", but only in comparison to the horrors coming out of TAG Heuer or the endless iPhone customisers. To the non-stinky-rich, though, they're way too ostentatious.
Very sad news
What phone will I buy now?
- Sent by my concierge as dictated on my Vertu Constellation Quest
"basic mobile phones with classy cases"
.. the very definition of lipstick on a pig ..