EE has announced that it will take over 58 stores from Phones 4u, and rebrand them, which will save the retail outlets from closure, and a number of jobs of course.
Some 359 jobs will be saved after the deal, the Beeb (opens in new tab) reports, which was agreed with the administrators of Phones 4u, PricewaterhouseCoopers.
Phones 4u descended into administration the weekend before last, and last Monday, the firm didn't open any of its shops (opens in new tab) – following EE announcing that it wasn't going to renew its contract with the chain. That left Phones 4u without any major networks on its books, and effectively in an untenable position in terms of sales.
Vodafone had previously withdrawn its support (opens in new tab) at the start of September – and Vodafone has also bought up some of Phones 4u's stores, a bigger chunk than EE in fact, with 140 shops. Previously, there have been rumblings about a certain degree of foul play, with both network operators pulling the rug so closely together and then looking to hoover up the remains. It's also thought the networks will be looking for a deal on Phones 4u's remaining inventory of stock.
The founder of Phones 4u, John Cauldwell, has called the moves "ruthless" and the phone networks "predatory", an accusation that the networks naturally deny.
At least jobs are being saved with these moves to take over stores, of course, although there are still a lot of jobs in danger. Phones 4u has some 700 retail outlets across the UK, so while almost 200 are safe, the majority still have an uncertain future. Staff at HQ, some 630 of them, have already been told they are losing their jobs.
Phones 4u has around 5,600 employees in total.
An anonymous source from administrators PwC had indicated that three companies were in discussion about taking over some of Phones 4u's assets – and while EE and Vodafone have now put their cards on the table, there might be a further snapping up of retail outlets yet.