Ethnic MVNO Lebara puts itself up for sale

Lebara, one of Europe's most successful MVNOs, is putting itself up for sale. The company, which targets ethnic communities in Europe and Australia, appointed the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to explore new strategic opportunities.

A document being circulated to interested parties by RBS says that Lebara will consider a number of options, including its sale, share market listing or a strategic partnership. However, it would seem that the preference is for Lebara to be sold, with two Asian operators rumoured to have already looked closely at the opportunity before walking away.

While the company reported significant revenue growth for 2010 of €564.6 million, up over 50 per cent from a year earlier, the ethnic MVNO market is said to be becoming hugely competitive on price. Despite this, Lebara posted pre-tax profits of €21.1 million for 2010, up from €8.8 million in 2009.

An unnamed insider quoted by Mobile Today said that MVNO margins are increasingly coming under pressure, particularly in the UK where Lebara has recently added a postpaid proposition to stop it from competing simply on price. However, the company is less exposed to this cut-throat competition than some given the large number of countries in which it operates.

Separately, China Telecom is preparing to launch as a UK MVNO early next year, according to European Communications. The managing of China Telecom Europe, Yan Ou, says that the company will aim to attract users from the UK's indigenous Chinese community and Chinese tourists visiting the country. "Launching in the UK is just the first step. Next we want to get into France, which has the biggest Chinese community in Europe, and Germany," Yan said.

For more:
- see this Mobile Today article
- see this Telecompaper article (sub. req.)
- see this European Communications article

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