North company helps firms get connected

Telecoms services group BNS has expanded into the Midlands with its biggest acquisition yet.

Telecoms services group BNS has expanded into the Midlands with its biggest acquisition yet.

The Northumberland company has splashed out £4.76m on business mobile specialists 3g Comms Limited and its sister company 3g Landline Limited.

The Birmingham companies are a Vodafone UK service provider which specialises in mobile voice and data services for small to medium sized businesses as well as selling some fixed line calls.

The seven-year-old businesses posted sales of £760,000 last year on sales of £10.34m and had net assets of more than £1m.

The acquisition considerably boosts the Prudhoe-based company's offering in the mobile voice and data market, which is seen as key to its growth.

It also follows BNS's winning a large service provider contract with Vodafone UK last month, which was one of the few new name service provider agreements issued by Vodafone UK in recent years.

Chief executive Garry Moat said: "Following our Vodafone UK service provider contract win earlier this month, the acquisition of 3g is another significant step in our strategy to deliver a converged fixed and mobile solution.

"The 3g management team will stay with the enlarged group, and their expertise, together with their customer base, provides BNS with significant scale with Vodafone UK.

"We expect the acquisition of 3g to be earnings enhancing and 3g's strong reputation in the Birmingham area will provide cross-selling opportunities for the BNS fixed line business."

BNS, which employs around 230 people, is looking to considerably increase its VoIP business and last year spent £1.2m on four acquisitions in that field, following its float in November 2005.

It is hoped its moves into the sector will lift the fortunes of the Aim-listed company, whose half-year profits were 47% down to £654,000 on sales of £25.8m when they were posted in October. This month it will launch a revolutionary new service combining the benefits of mobile phones with low-cost VoIP technology.

Its new WiDial service works by offering cheaper telephone calls to mobile phone users by allowing them to connect calls using the VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) system currently used mainly from PC to PC.

Providers such as Skype have been offering the chance to make free phone calls over the internet for some time. But BNS is aiming to offer some of the same benefits while using mobile handsets.

WiDial will see mobiles work normally most of the time, but when the user is in a WiFi `hotspot' - where you can get online with your computer without plugging in to a phone line - they will be able to make cheaper phone calls than usual.

The VoIP business has been one of its more profitable arms over the last year. The new move will see it sell to individuals rather than its main current business clients.

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