Dextra has fallen back in the bidding for Hugh Symons, putting Advantage Cellular and Timico as the frontrunners in a possible acquisition deal.
Senior bosses in the 20:20 Mobile and Dextra business are known to have pressed private equity owner Doughty Hanson on the urgency of acquiring a distributor with strong credentials in the business market in recent months.
However, Doughty Hanson is believed to have pulled back from the deal, preferring not to be hurried into a purchase until its new group CEO, Meinie Oldersma, steps into the business from February.
Advantage and Timico have deep pockets and are looking to capitalise on the difficulties faced by incumbents. Timico is a business services provider, with former Project Telecom founder Tim Radford at the helm. Advantage is backed by a Polish billionaire, former Unique chief John McFarnon as CEO and has ambitions to cover every aspect of mobile distribution.
Neither were available for comment as Mobile went to press.
Carphone Warehouse was believed to have given Dextra until the end of the week to make an offer for its distribution business, Hugh Symons. Carphone UK’s CEO, Andrew Harrison, said: ‘No discussions with Dextra are taking place.’
It leaves Dextra in a vulnerable state as it ponders life as an airtime distributor for consumer connections in a market where operators are pulling away from independent distribution for everything other than business connections.
Dextra has lost a huge chunk of its market share in the distribution market
in recent months, with several of its high-profile dealers collapsing through cashback.
Dextra had been the strongest performer in the 20:20 Mobile group until the collapse of Dialamobile and Mobile Media Systems – two of the biggest dealers on Dextra’s books.
Mobile first reported news of Dextra’s interest in Hugh Symons in early November, when Dextra first explored a possible deal with Carphone to buy Hugh Symons.
There have been few benefits to either Carphone or Hugh Symons since Carphone bought the distributor for £5.2m in August 2005 from the Roper family, with another £5m deferred.
Ambitions to aggregate buying power were derailed as operators blocked both Carphone and Hugh Symons.