Cheap-calls pioneer set to ring up pounds 100m from telecoms sale

Click to follow
A FORMER actor who brought cheap international calls to thousands of telephone users is set to pocket about pounds 100m by selling his company to a Japanese telecoms giant

Tom McCabe, who played bit parts in Minder and ran a telephone dating agency before founding Swiftcall in 1993, is currently understood to be negotiating the sale to KDD, the Japanese telecoms operator. A deal could be announced as early as next week.

Swiftcall has grown rapidly by offering cheap international telephone calls, undercutting established operators such as British Telecom and Mercury.

It currently has 250,000 customers and last year sold 1.5m pre-paid telephone cards which offer users international calls at rates up to 50 per cent cheaper than BT. It has recently started offering similar services in the US and Ireland.

Swiftcall currently offers calls to the United States at just 12p a minute, while BT charges 24p. A call to France costs 14p a minute, compared to 28p with BT.

Mr McCabe's achievement is all the more impressive because Swiftcall does not own its own telephone lines.

It is what is known in the industry as a reseller, renting large chunks of capacity from existing operators and then selling it through aggressive marketing campaigns.

Swiftcall had been preparing a stock-market flotation in London or New York. However, Mr McCabe has now decided to sell the company outright.

Last year, Mr McCabe, who owns 100 per cent of Swiftcall, gave KDD an option to take a 20 per cent stake in the company.

Swiftcall was the first reseller to enter the market, effectively breaking the duopoly held by BT and Mercury and forcing them to cut international call charges.

It has since been followed by a slew of other operators such as First Telecom which have begun to offer similar call rates.

However, industry analysts are concerned that, as competition increases, the resellers will be squeezed.

Swiftcall's growth has slowed dramatically in recent years. In the 12 months to the end of May, the company is likely to have made revenues of pounds 27m, compared to pounds 24m last year.