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Truphone's VoIP service attracts £70M investment from Russian billionaire

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Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich invested £70 million for a 23 per cent stake in low-cost international call provider Truphone. The deal, which values Truphone at £300 million, will be Abramovich's largest investment in a UK company since buying the Chelsea football club.

Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich took a 23 per cent stake in Truphone.

The company said the new funds will be used to double the number of its employees, adding 500 extra staff over the next 18 months. The company will also expand the Truphone VoIP service to the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Germany, Spain and Poland.

UK-based Truphone provides an international calling service aimed largely at business users by enabling a single SIM card to be assigned multiple local numbers, such as a U.S. and UK number, and then charged at local rates. The key attraction for business users is being able to avoid pricy roaming charges for voice and data has seen around 400 companies signed up to the Truphone service.

Truphone CEO Steve Robertson told the Financial Times that Abramovich had been introduced to the company by Alexander Abramov, the Russian investor who will remain the majority shareholder in the group.

Robertson said representatives of Abramovich's asset management vehicle Millhouse had tested the service extensively before committing. The investment is being made via Minden, which is linked to Millhouse, according to the Guardian.

"They are real believers that what Truphone does and the way we are doing it can be a game-changer in the industry," Robertson told the Guardian. "Their investment is an important part of allowing us to fulfill the potential of our business."

The CEO added that Truphone is also looking for growth. "In five years' time, we want to have over 1 million users," he said. An additional £5 million has been raised from another, undisclosed investor, said the FT.

In other Truphone news, the firm announced a new BlackBerry 10 version of its Tru App, which it says will let users to save up to 90 percent on international voice calls while enjoying enhanced audio quality. The new app has an enhanced user interface, which Truphone said it plans to build on with "increasingly valuable" functionality over the coming months.

For more:
- see this Truphone release
- see this FT article (sub. req.)
- see this Guardian article
- see this separate Truphone release

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