O2 has been tipped as a potential buyer for its unified communications joint venture partner 2e2.
IT and unified comms analyst Ian Spence of IS Research said this week that 2e2’s private equity backer Duke Street, which owns just under half of the company, is likely to explore selling its stake in 2e2 this year and could consider O2 as a potential buyer.
Spence said a sale of Duke Street’s majority stake in 2e2 is only a matter of time: ‘Duke Street has been investing in 2e2 for six years now. As a private equity investor, it is very likely to be thinking about its exit plans. I think they will do something in the next 12 months, be that a trade sale, an IPO or a sale to a private equity investor.’
O2 and 2e2 formed a joint venture last year, setting up O2’s unified comms arm O2 Unify. The company has grown rapidly since launch, winning a number of major enterprise contracts. The joint venture recently launched an aggressive expansion into the SME market.
Spence told Mobile that O2 might be keen to buy 2e2 to secure O2 Unify. He added that 2e2 could return to the acquisition trail under a new owner, with rival Azzurri Communications a possible target. Despite recent denials from Azzurri that it is up for sale, Spence suggested it could be sold by the banking consortium that took over the company last November after it racked up debts of more than £115m.
Spence said: ‘Banks do not tend to want to hold on to takeovers like Azzurri in the long-term… However, before it could make a bid for Azzurri, 2e2 needs to find a new private equity investor.’
An O2 spokesman said: 'We enjoy a very good relationship with 2E2 and have made significant gains into the ICT market with O2 Unify – as such we wouldn’t want to speculate or comment on rumours of their future.'