The Cutting Room – 20:20, Brightpoint and Brightstar target EMEA


Eastern promise

Distribution, then, is following the logical route of airtime for growth.

Network operators, as Vodafone’s hefty £483 million purchase of Ghana Telecom attests, are looking for growth overseas. And they have been for some time. Laggard distributors are only now, it seems, taking the baton from them.

Former Vodafone chief Arun Sarin, just replaced by Vittorio Colao, was quick to concede home markets were slowing and emerging markets had to be tapped.

India, Turkey, Romania, China. Now West African turf, where there is enormous growth prospects in terms of customer additions, if not relative ARPU.

O2 UK now has to contend with a brood of more needy offspring for the affections of parent Telefónica; and fast growing Latin American markets are more responsive to its time and money than saturated old world markets.

A new proposition

For 20:20, steady for the first time since Doughty Hanson paid a king’s ransom for it in late 2006, emerging markets are an entirely new proposition.

It doesn’t have experience of them, while its US counterparts, the Bright brothers, already know Latin American markets – Mexico, Chile, Brazil, where the rude health of the mobile reseller channel would make UK dealers pine for their professional youth.

Brightstar and Brightpoint are setting up in the Middle East too. 20:20 chief Meinie Oldersma says a lack of established distribution brands in Eastern Europe and the Middle East makes tangible growth easier, which is true.

But such monster logistics businesses will make life tough, each for the other, quickly enough.

Also, Data Select has its own game plan, likely to come to life this month when much expected senior management changes will see its satellite trading units on the continent opened up properly, and built in new markets.

Data Select, largely confined to these shores and parochial compared with the supposed giants of distribution, won’t just slug it out in the UK for single-digit annual growth.

Ideas and energy

But back to 20:20. The noises from its suppliers (except Samsung) and customers are good.

Oldersma, his senior management team and the new blood in sales and marketing have realised the need to win over old partners.

The strategy looks positive too. 20:20 appears to be sparking with ideas and energy, out of its financial funk and gasping to put in place plans held up for so long.

Dubai is an "enormous opportunity". Spain and France are "positive". Holland, Italy, Hungary, Romania, Turkey, Qatar, Russia? "They are all exciting opportunities. Now we have a plan for proper international growth".

And the UK? "Extreme margin pressure".