Stelios admits mobile defeat in Netherlands after nine months

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The Independent Online

The easyMobile discount telephone service, which was launched in the Netherlands by serial entrepreneur Stelios Haji-Ioannou less than nine months ago, is to close.

The move came after easyMobile's partner, the Danish group TDC, decided to pull the plug on the operation. It was a "virtual" network operator, which also has ongoing businesses in Germany and the United Kingdom that use the easyMobile brand.

The easyMobile name will continue in the Dutch market in a new venture started by Stelios, as an online price comparison service with a another partner, the online company Kelkoo.

Stelios said: "This is not a failure. This is a change of business model. I used to partner with one company. Now I partner with another... I had no financial risk in the [Dutch] venture."

Under the TDC deal, easyMobile did not invest any money but simply licensed its name. EasyMobile has about 100,000 customers between the three countries, with the Dutch business having the least number of users.

Analysts said that TDC, which was recently taken over by a consortium of private equity groups, was cutting back from some businesses.

Stelios said: "They [TDC] did not want to make the investment in Holland to get it up to scale."

Beyond the Netherlands, the partnership with TDC operates in the UK with an online and high-street offering which includes both sim cards only and pre-paid handsets. The company is also established in Germany with a pure online sim-card offering.

In the Netherlands, easyMobile.nl will now offer a shopping comparison service which will "give Dutch consumers an even wider choice in order to make sure they get the best value from their mobile telephones," according to the company.

This comparison service includes stand-alone handsets, as well as contract mobile phones, with Stelios's easyGroup getting a cut of any sales. Again, it is risking no capital in the business.

EasyGroup said: "The easyMobile service in the Netherlands now provides a 'one stop' comparison service which ensures that Dutch consumers get exactly what they are looking for from their mobile phones at the best value.""

Stelios said: "I am delighted that we can continue to make a difference in the lives of Dutch consumers in the mobile phone area."

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