Belfast Telegraph

EE follows Vodafone and buys stores of collapsed Phones 4u

By Graeme Evans

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 – including 21 in Northern Ireland – who worked at 160 Phones 4u sites within Currys/PC World stores.

None of the stores being acquired by EE are in Northern Ireland – however, four of the stores which Vodafone is acquiring are located in the province, with the result that 22 jobs will be saved.

The Northern Ireland stores being rescued by Vodafone are in Newtownabbey, where eight people are employed, Bangor Bloomfield Centre, which employs seven, Ballymena Fairhill, which has four staff, and Omagh, where three people work.

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.

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 £1.5bn in 2006, called the behaviour of the networks "extremely callous, extremely ruthless".

Vodafone said it rejected any suggestion it behaved inappropriately during its negotiations with Phones 4u and indicated that the private equity-owned firm's debt repayment schedule hampered the discussions.

Belfast Telegraph