Brightstar completes acquisition of 20:20 Mobile

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Distributor rebranded as Brightstar 20:20 as year-long negotiations reach their conclusion

Brightstar has completed the acquisition of UK hardware distributor 20:20 Mobile for an undisclosed fee, rebranding as Brightstar 20:20.

The acquisition sees the number of countries Brightstar operates in increase from around 38 today – following the JV sale – to more than 50. It serves more than 200 operators and 50,000 retailers, and has a local presence in more than 50 countries, including the UK and Spain.

20:20’s European markets include Finland, Germany, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Portugal as well as the UK. 20:20 Mobile currently serves over 3,500 customers with annual turnover of nearly £1 billion.

Brightstar president and CEO Marcelo Claure said: “With the strategic acquisition of 20:20 Mobile, Brightstar has a strong position in the European market, one of the most exciting and progressive markets in the world.  Bringing the team of 20:20 Mobile into the Brightstar family will allow us to deliver some of the top innovations and services developed for mobility to the operators, retailers and manufacturers that are leading the wireless industry in Europe.”

The acquired company, which will be renamed “Brightstar 20:20”, will be led by a “strong” management team. These include:

  • German Lopez, currently managing director of 20:20 Mobile in Spain and Portugal, will lead the organisation as president, Europe. During his tenure with 20:20, Lopez grew subsidiaries in Spain and Portugal from £15 million when he joined the company in 2007 to record revenues of over £270 million for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2013.
  • Jim Michel will serve as managing director of Brightstar 20:20 UK. Prior to joining Brightstar 20:20, he served as managing director of Tech Data Mobile in the UK between October 2011 and July 2013 and previously held senior management positions at Motorola and LG.
  • Fredrik Rudberg will continue serving the Nordics as managing director of Brightstar 20:20 Mobile Nordics. He has held that role since February 2009. In the past four years, he expanded the company’s business in Finland and the Baltics. He has 15 years of experience in the telecom business, including senior roles at Telia Sonera and Nokia Scandinavia.

The acquisition is expected to close early in the first quarter of 2014.Brightstar-MN524-lead-web

Confirmation of the deal comes more than a year after Brightstar president and CEO Marcelo Claure confirmed his interest in 20:20 Mobile in an exclusive interview with Mobile News. He said re-establishing Brightstar’s presence in the UK was his number one priority.

Brightstar had been linked with a number of UK firms after selling its 50 per cent share of Brightstar Europe to joint venture partner Tech Data – now Tech Data Mobile – for $165 million in September.

Growing speculation

The previous month private equity firm Doughty Hansen had refused to comment on speculation it was on the verge of selling its 45 per cent stake in 20:20 Mobile Group to Brightstar.

In November 2012, distribution sources revealed that Brightstar’s acquisition of 20:20 Mobile had moved a step closer with a fee of around £150 million said to have been agreed.

The deal failed to materialise, however, and in March of this year Claure told Mobile News in an exclusive interview from Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that contrary to reports, the deal had not been completed and that discussions were ongoing.

Delays Brightstar-Spanish-hold-up-MN542-web

In June, the acquisition was delayed following network operator TeliaSonera’s decision to sell Spanish network operator Yoigo (20:20’s biggest customer in that country). Subsequent interest from Vodafone had also cast doubt over whether its fulfilment deals would continue. Losing the contract would have had a significant impact on the Spanish division’s value.

Yiogo, which has around two million customers, has been closely aligned with 20:20 Mobile since launching in 2006, with 20:20 Mobile managing all stock fulfilment for the operator, as well as logistics and its call centres.

Its SIM cards are sold through retailers in Spain, including Carphone Warehouse-owned The Phone Shop, as well as a number of its own franchised stores.

However, sources close to Brightstar and 20:20 Mobile claimed TeliaSonera had backtracked on its original decision and had decided to keep hold of the company, indicating the acquisition would move a step closer to completion.

SoftBank

In October, Japanese telecoms and internet corporation SoftBank agreed to pay $1.26 billion for a 57 per cent stake in Brightstar, increasing its ownership to 70 per cent. Claure is continuing as president and CEO, owning the remaining 43 per cent of shares.

20:20 Mobile has handset distribution contracts with Sony Mobile, LG, Motorola and BlackBerry, as well as SIM pair agreements and prepay handset distribution deals with EE, O2 and Three in the UK. It also has accessories distribution agreements in place with the likes of Jabra, Tech 21 and Monster.

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