Reliance Snaps Up Vanco
The ambitious Indian carrier, which recently formed an international business unit and says it wants to be "one of the Top 5 Global Datacommunications Enterprises in the world," has made yet another acquisition, this time of struggling managed VPN service provider Vanco plc for the knock-down price of $76.9 million free of debt. (See Reliance Integrates Global Services.)
The deal follows Reliance's acquisitions of WiMax upstart eWave , Ugandan operator Anupam Global Soft, Ethernet service provider Yipes Enterprise Services Inc. , and global subsea network operator FLAG Telecom Ltd. . (See Reliance Plots Global WiMax Rollout, Reliance Makes African Acquisition, Reliance Bags Yipes for $300M, and FLAG Amalgamates With Reliance.)
So what has Reliance bought now? Well, Vanco is a virtual network operator (VNO) -– it doesn't own any network infrastructure but instead pieces together virtual private networks (VPNs) by striking multiple capacity agreements with carriers around the world. It boasts a customer base of more than 220 multinational companies and currently generates annual revenues of around £184 million ($365 million).
But the company recently announced a financial review that resulted in the departure of the service provider's long-time CEO, Allen 'Fast Car' Timpany (a bad sign), the appointment of a chief restructuring officer (an even worse sign), and the suspension of trading in its shares on the London Stock Exchange (nurse, pass the smelling salts!). (See Vanco Suspends Trading.)
Swooping on Vanco makes sense for Reliance for a number of reasons.
First, it gives the Indian operator hundreds of multinational enterprise customer relationships, which it needs to help grow its national (in India) and international Ethernet services business (Yipes and FLAG). And Vanco, despite its accounting problems, has been saying throughout this year that its business continues to grow. (See India's Hot for Ethernet and Carrier Ethernet's International Flavor.)
Second, it also gives Reliance the customer management assets in which Vanco invested heavily. The virtual service provider has nine network management centers worldwide, and relationships with more than 700 network operators globally that enable Vanco to offer service in 230 countries. Reliance says it also gains sales and customer support experience in a number of key international markets, including the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Belgium, Singapore and Australia.
Third, it gives Reliance additional revenues of $365 million a year to add to its annual sales of around $1.5 billion.
And fourth, it prevents an existing partner falling into the hands of a rival. Reliance and Vanco announced a partnership in September 2007 that extended FLAG Telecom's reach into an additional 81 countries, greatly enhancing its sales potential: Market talk suggested that Cable and Wireless plc (NYSE: CWP) and possibly even Accenture might have been interested in buying Vanco. (See FLAG, Vanco Team.)
And Reliance isn't stopping to take a breath, either. Now it's engaged in talks with emerging markets mobile operator MTN Group Ltd. , which has more than 68 million subscribers in 21 markets in Africa and the Middle East. (See MTN M&A Latest, MTN Becomes M&A Magnet, and Top Ten: Emerging Markets Carriers.)
— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading