Firecrest nets pounds 1m from handset rights

MATHEW HORSMAN

Firecrest, the high-flying Internet services and promotions company, has sold selective rights to its Transphone handset to Telecom Credit Europe for pounds 1m.

The deal marks the latest in a series of Internet-related announcements from the small publicly quoted company, which late last year announced a new software licensing agreement to offer international phone service through the Internet for the price of a local call.

Transphone, the company's proprietary handset, allows users to make phone calls through their computers without the need for speakers or microphones. It also includes equipment for smart and swipe cards, allowing charges to be made for services offered electronically.

Roy Capper, Firecrest's chief executive, said the swipe and smart card facility would attract the interest of Internet service suppliers and reassure users that their credit card numbers would not be liable to fradulent misuse. "There has been concern, most of it unfounded, that the Internet is not secure," Mr Capper said.

He added that the company expected smart-card technology to be introduced more widely in Europe, replacing the swipe cards now widely in use. Unlike swipe cards, smart cards carry data that can be updated.

The Transphone must be used in conjunction with software like Digiphone, although the system can also work with competing products.

Yesterday's deal gives Telecom Credit Europe, which operates credit-card payphones, exclusive rights to market the Transphone in Austria, Germany and Switzerland, in exhange for Telecom Credit shares of up to 2 million, representing just under 20 per cent of the company.

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