UK: Network operator EE to buy 58 Phones 4U stores
- Credit: PA
Network operator EE is to buy 58 Phones 4u stores in a deal saving more than 350 jobs at the collapsed mobile phone retailer.
The agreement with administrator PwC comes after Vodafone said on Friday it would buy 140 Phones 4u stores, safeguarding 887 jobs.
The collapse of Phones 4u, which went into administration last week following EE’s decision not to renew its contract, affected 5,600 workers at 560 Phones 4u stores and a further 160 concession outlets.
Dixons Carphone has already said it will take on the 800 staff who worked at 160 Phones 4u sites within Currys/PC World stores.
EE said the stores and 359 employees will be transferred with immediate effect, although the location of the shops has not been disclosed.
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The stores will be re-branded to EE and it is planned that most will be opened in the next week.
With buyers only interested in the store estate, PwC has restructured the Phones 4u Newcastle-under-Lyme offices in order to cut costs. This resulted in 628 redundancies among head office and telesales staff on Friday.
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There are still 3,000 jobs and more than 300 stores at risk following the deals with Vodafone, EE and Dixons Carphone.
PwC said last week that three parties were interested in buying the retailer’s standalone store estate, with two of the bidders likely to have been EE and Vodafone.
Store staff have been asked to remain at home while talks take place with parties interested in buying some of the estate.
EE and the other network operators were accused of a “co-ordinated attempt to kill off” the retailer after their failure to renew contracts left the company with no option but to call in administrators.
Entrepreneur John Caudwell, who set up the operation in the 1980s before selling it for £1.5 billion in 2006, called the behaviour of the networks “extremely callous, extremely ruthless”.
Vodafone said it rejected any suggestion that it behaved inappropriately during its negotiations with Phones 4u and indicated that the private equity-owned firm’s debt repayment schedule hampered the discussions.
However, this was rejected by BC Partners in a statement last week.
EE said its decision not to renew its contract, which ran until September 2015, was in part driven by uncertainty over the long-term viability of Phones 4u. Its decision triggered the collapse of Phones 4u as it left the retailer without a single network partner.
EE is paying £2.5 million for the 58 Phones 4u stores, while the administrators also disclosed that Vodafone paid £12.4 million for Phones 4u’s interest in 140 leasehold properties and its in-store inventory.