Vodafone to acquire Caudwell'sSinglepoint for £400m

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The Independent Online

Vodafone, the mobile phones giant, is this week set to follow up its recent takeover of Project Telecom with a near-£400m deal to buy Singlepoint, another service provider with 1.5 million customers under its belt.

Vodafone, the mobile phones giant, is this week set to follow up its recent takeover of Project Telecom with a near-£400m deal to buy Singlepoint, another service provider with 1.5 million customers under its belt.

It will put a value on a major part of the business empire of the entrepreneur John Caudwell, who has 97 per cent control of Caudwell Group. Once Singlepoint goes, the company's biggest remaining operation will be the Phones4U mobile-phone retail chain.

More than 1.3 million of Singlepoint's customers are on the Vodafone network, so the deal will plug Vodafone straight through to them without paying Singlepoint's 25 per cent commission. Singlepoint buys airtime at wholesale rates from Vodafone and sells it to its customers. MmO 2, the mobile-phone provider formerly owned by BT, has about 150,000 customers through Singlepoint and can now expect Vodafone to make strenuous efforts to convert them to its network.

Analysts believe that a sideshow to the takeover may be negotiations to give Vodafone enhanced access to the Phones4U chain, where many of Singlepoint's customers will have bought their handsets.

Vodafone refused to comment on the possibility of buying Singlepoint ahead of an official announcement, expected by stock market observers to take place in the next few days. Mr Caudwell is on holiday and was not available to respond to the reports. He began Singlepoint six years ago under the more prosaic title of Caudwell Airtime Services. It has grown hand-in-hand with Phones4U, which ranks as one of Britain's leading mobile-phone retailers alongside Carphone Warehouse and The Link.

Mr Caudwell is one of the richest individuals in Britain and is known for his love of helicopters and luxury boats.

It was not clear at the weekend whether Mr Caudwell intended to keep the Vodafone cash in Caudwell Group to finance expansion of the retail chain, or reinvest it elsewhere.

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