Proximus to buy Mobile Vikings for €130M

Belgium-based operator Proximus has agreed to acquire youth-oriented mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) Mobile Vikings from DPG Media for €130 million (US$158 million), adding two brands to its mobile services portfolio.

Mobile Vikings also includes the Jim Mobile brand, and currently serves a total of 335,000 customers in Belgium. It will continue to operate as a separate entity within the Proximus Group and is expected to generate revenue of over €50 million ($60.7 million) and EBITDA of €15 million ($18 million) in 2020. The deal is set to close in 2021, subject to approval from the relevant authorities.

Proximus noted that the acquisition will enable it to target a different market segment from the core Proximus and Scarlet brands, providing a boost to its "multi-brand positioning" in the Belgian residential market. Proximus also offers services in Luxembourg under the Tango and Telindus brands, and in the Netherlands under Telindus.

It's complicated

The deal in fact provides something of a setback for Orange Belgium, which currently hosts Mobile Vikings on its mobile network. The MVNO switched from the network of Telenet-owned BASE Belgium with effect from spring 2019.

Mobile Vikings used to be 50% owned by BASE, but cable operator Telenet was forced to sell the stake in the MVNO when it acquired BASE from Dutch operator KPN in 2015.

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At the time, Medialaan, the former name of DPG Media, agreed to take over Telenet's 50% share in Viking Co NV and merge Mobile Vikings with former BASE brand Jim Mobile. Medialaan also acquired the 50% share owned by the founders of Mobile Vikings in order to gain a 100% stake.

Mobile Vikings has said it was founded in 2009, although Proximus cites 2007 as the year of the MVNO's birth.

Turbulent past

As for DPG Media, the broadcaster first indicated its intention to sell Mobile Vikings in late November, apparently as part of efforts to streamline the group. However, Belgian newspaper De Tijd described DPG Media's five-year ownership of Mobile Vikings as a "turbulent period," and said things really started to go wrong when the MVNO switched from the BASE network to Orange Belgium.

According to the paper, the migration to Orange led to a "hail of complaints," further exacerbated by its transformation from a "light MVNO" to a "full MVNO." This was at odds with the original Vikings philosophy of creating a community feeling among its users.

The move to Proximus, including the eventual migration to the operator's mobile network, marks the latest stage in the MVNO's journey. According to Proximus CEO Guillaume Boutin, the "first priority will be to preserve and further develop the identity and market positioning of Mobile Vikings."

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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