O2 already owns 40% of The Link; when it takes over the 300-store chain, it will double its High Street portfolio. Some disposals are inevitable.
In a trading update last month DSG revealed a 25% slump in like-for-like sales at The Link over the past year. The Link currently has 2,300 employees. O2 had previously said it wasn’t interested in buying out DSG’s stake. The change of heart is probably down to its decision to face up to Orange and Carphone Warehouse and get stuck into converged mobile and broadband services – Carphone Warehouse in particular has demonstrated that a high street presence is a pretty good way of selling residential telephony and especially broadband products.
Dana Pressman, Be: £50m from O2
To that end, O2 has just paid £50m for UK broadband provider Be. Be claims 16m customers (well, that’s what it says here) and it is certainly technically advanced – it was the first UK broadband ISP to use ADSL2+ which offers speeds of up to 24Mbps, for instance. Be is in around 150 local exchanges and has plans for more than 400 by the end of 2006; that will cover approximately 50% of the population, with a target of 70% coverage by the end of next year.
“This acquisition will enable us to take advantage of technology innovations to offer a wider range of joined up mobile, internet and content services for our consumer and business customers in the future.”
Be was founded in October 2004 and is privately owned. MD and co-founder Dana Pressman said: “I am delighted that we are becoming part of such a respected and dynamic organisation as O2 … This is the start of an exciting new era for all of us within Be.”
At the 2006 ISPA, Be won the ‘Best Sumo Consumer Broadband’ category for services of 2Mbps and above. The company is currently building its own national broadband network by installing local-loop equipment in BT exchanges around the country using ADSL2+ technology.
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