Upbeat Carphone predicts Christmas mobile madness

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The Independent Online

Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, predicted "bedlam" this Christmas with consumers scrambling to pick up the best mobile phone deals. The company also said it hoped to provide its own rental billings to fixed-line customers in the spring.

Charles Dunstone, the chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, predicted "bedlam" this Christmas with consumers scrambling to pick up the best mobile phone deals. The company also said it hoped to provide its own rental billings to fixed-line customers in the spring.

The retailer and telecoms group reported a 38 per cent leap in underlying pre-tax profit to £28.1m for the half-year to 25 September. Turnover was up 25 per cent at £1.03bn. Like-for-like retail sales grew 12 per cent.

Mr Dunstone said: "It's going to be bedlam at Christmas. There have never been more products in the market and never have there been better deals."

He said that a bumper Christmas last year meant that producing growth this time would be more difficult. "We've set ourselves a tough hill to climb but I still think we will exceed that [last year's sales]."

Analysts said the company should see single-digit underlying sales growth over the crucial Christmas period. Mr Dunstone said that as the market became ever more complicated and confusing, the need was growing for a neutral retailer to take consumers through options on offer.

"The one thing that is constant in this marketplace is Carphone Warehouse. It really feels like our presence and relationship with customers is deepening," he said.

A survey commissioned by Carphone, released yesterday, asking consumers which outlet they would consider purchasing a mobile phone from, showed the company was well ahead of the competition, especially the other retailers not tied to a particular mobile network, such as Phones4U. "Carphone Warehouse got more first mentions than any other chain's total mentions," the company said.

Carphone's fledgling fixed-line business - TalkTalk - launched broadband services this week. Yesterday, the group said it wanted to offer domestic fixed-line customers its own quarterly line rental bills by March or April. The current market structure, which makes this impossible, is being investigated by the telecoms regulator. By making this move, TalkTalk would sever completely a household's relationship with incumbent operator BT.

After first-half losses, of £5.8m, TalkTalk has moved into profit. It aims to have 900,000 customers by the end of the financial year. Analysts said the venture should produce a profit of £15m to £20m next year.

Carphone shares fell 4 per cent to 160p. Traders blamed the fall on profit-taking. It listed at 200p at the height of the stock market boom in 2000.

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