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Chess board set to buy Avenir’s 30,000 B2B connection base?

Paul Withers
May 19, 2014

IT and fixed line specialist said to be holding exclusive discussions with O2 and EE distributor

IT and fixed line provider Chess Telecom was last week said to be on the verge of acquiring the 30,000 connection base of O2 and EE airtime distributor Avenir Telecom.

Cheshire-based Chess,  which had a turnover of more than £44 million in 2013, is said to have been locked in exclusive talks to buy Avenir’s base since March.

Neither company would discuss the story as Mobile News went to press, but dealers claim Avenir’s intentions to sell have been made clear to its airtime partners – with Chess named as the likely buyer.

One Avenir dealer said: “O2 informed us of Avenir’s plans to sell to Chess last week – and the feeling from them is it is 95 per cent complete and is likely to complete soon.”

The news comes almost three months after Avenir founder and chief executive Jean-Daniel Beurnier exclusively revealed to Mobile News he was looking to exit the UK airtime market and was in talks with two “unnamed” companies over the sale of its base, with a completion date expected by April. He added Avenir would remain in the UK market but will instead focus on growing its BeeWi accessory and Yezz smartphone brands.

‘Not for sale’
Despite his comments, senior staff at Avenir UK including managing director Andy Tow and sales director John Pett have insisted to its 68 staff and 500 dealer base the business is “not for sale”.

In a further twist, sources claim the lease on Avenir’s Borehamwood head office building – said to expire in December – will not be renewed  although this is not confirmed.

Estimates of the value of the deal are not known.

Chess, formed in 1993, has an established customer base in excess of 50,000,  offering fixed line, VoIP and data system maintenance services to the public and private sector.

It already offers B2B mobile connectivity on EE, Vodafone and O2 via airtime distribution – via the indirect channel. Its base size for mobile is unknown.

The acquisition of Avenir Telecom, if completed, would see the number of acquisitions by Chess top 80 since 2001, an average of around seven a year. This has seen company turnover rocket from £1 million in 2001 to more than £44 million in 2013, with staff numbers rising from 20 to 230 in the past decade.

Earlier this month Chess completed the capture of Bedfordshire-based IT and telecoms supplier Integra ICT (see back page). This followed the acquisition of Microsoft partner the CRM Business in December.

Acquisition machine
The company secured a £21 million banking facility through Barclays Corporate in 2011 as part of its acquisition strategy.

Chess director Richard Btesh described the firm to Mobile News earlier this month as an “acquisition machine” and admitted to be looking at acquiring the base of two more companies but refused to discuss who or from what telecom space.

He refused to respond to later questions on Avenir.

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