Avenir Telecom to exit B2B airtime

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Founder Jean-Daniel Beurnier says firm will focus on accessories and handset distribution; Two unnamed companies in discussions to buy Avenir’s 30,000 connection base

Avenir Telecom is to exit the B2B airtime market next month after 20 years, the firm’s founder and chief executive Jean-Daniel Beurnier has confirmed.

In an exclusive interview with Mobile News, Beurnier (pictured) said the firm is in discussions with two unnamed companies over the sale of its 30,000-plus B2B connections, with a deal expected to completed as early as April.

Daisy Distribution and Carphone Warehouse have both been rumoured to have shown interest in Avenir’s airtime base, which is made up predominantly of O2, but neither would comment as Mobile News went to press.

Beurnier confirmed Avenir would remain in the UK but will instead focus on growing its accessory (such as BeeWi) and handset distribution business (see box out).

“We have decided to refocus on distribution and less on airtime,” said Beurnier. “We will sell our airtime company in the UK and stay in accessories and handsets.

“We do not know who we will sell it to yet as we are currently in discussions with several potential buyers, but a sale is expected to be finalised in April.”

Beurnier, who founded Avenir in France in 1989, said the decision to sell was made last year – as reported by Mobile News in April.

Falling margins

He said the reasoning was based on a number of factors, most notably the rising number of SIM only handsets being bought in the UK – estimated at around eight million smartphones in 2013* – as well as the falling prices and margins in the airtime space.

Avenir is a direct partner with O2 (Approved Partner) and EE, which also includes Orange and T-Mobile.

Latest devices

“We do not want to link hardware and airtime any more because the market for SIM-free phones is completely exploding all over Europe and in the UK. Currently, 20 per cent of handsets sold are SIM-free, but in two years this will be 40 per cent (16 million).

“Prices for monthly subscriptions will continue to fall and people will increasingly want to get the latest devices.”

Avenir Telecom currently has around 68 staff working at its Borehamwood offices – of which the majority are understood to be involved directly in the airtime business.

Neither Beurnier or Avenir UK managing director Andy Tow would comment on any potential redundancies nor the future of its current offices as Mobile News went to press.

*Juniper Research

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