Exclusive: Pébereau’s Tofane adds €141m Portuguese business to iBASIS empire

AS APPEARED IN CAPACITY MEDIA

Alexandre Pébereau, the former Orange executive who has built up Tofane Global over the past three years, has acquired the international carrier business of Portuguese operator NOS.

In a deal signed yesterday afternoon, NOS International Carrier Services will pass to Tofane’s iBasis, the business Pébereau (pictured, left) bought from KPN in February 2019.

Speaking to Capacity a couple of hours after signing the agreement, Pébereau would not say how much Tofane was paying for the NOS unit, which had revenue of €141 million last year.

“This accelerates our strategy of consolidation,” Pébereau, group CEO of Tofane, told Capacity last night, “and it speeds up our move into mobile services.”

Lisbon-based NOS International Carrier Services provides national and international voice and SMS traffic transport services, as well as associated support signalling. The unit provides voice and mobile services, plus an application-to-person (A2P) SMS platform.

“One third of our activities now come from mobile services and the internet of things,” said Pébereau.

The NOS team will move into the already established iBasis office in Lisbon, he said.

The deal also expands iBasis into the Portuguese-speaking market. NOS International Carrier Services has customers in Portugal, Brazil and Angola, plus Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, East Timor, the Chinese Special Administrative Region of Macau and the Central African island country of São Tomé and Príncipe.

In a prepared statement, Manuel Ramalho Eanes (pictured right, signing the deal yesterday), NOS executive board member, said: “For NOS, this transaction is a path for growth. We were seeking the right way to capitalize on our core business while optimizing our wholesale services.”

“NOS wants to focus on its national market,” Pébereau told Capacity.

Discussions about the acquisition started in mid-2019 and he hopes that completion – after regulatory approval – will take place in three months. The deal is not big enough to need referral to the European Commission, he said.

Plans for NOS International Carrier under iBasis’s control “are very comparable to what we did with KPN and SFR”, he added. The acquisition of iBasis from KPN followed the purchase of Altice International Wholesale (AIW) from the group that owns mobile operator SFR – though both deals were announced within days in March 2018.

Those were both voice-oriented deals. In 2018 Tofane said AIW and iBasis represented a turnover of more than €1.2 billion and the two operations transferred 34 billion minutes of voice traffic a year.

Altice/SFR, KPN and now NOS disposed of their international carrier operations because “though they are important to mobile operators they account for only 5% of the business”, Pébereau said last night.

“But you want the roamers and you want the signalling to work out,” he noted. “With us they are at the centre of the strategy, and we come up with new ideas and new products.”

The Covid-19 pandemic has hit mobile roaming hard: a survey by Juniper Research last week suggested the industry would lose $25 million between now and the end of the year. “We have seen a decline,” said Pébereau. “It’s not our money. It’s the money of the operators.” Growth stopped in February, “but what we have seen is more communications from everyone. We are seeing people calling more. It balances out.”

The deal between NOS and Tofane was negotiated over video calls, because of the virus, said Pébereau. And the agreement was also signed electronically.

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