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Cornish Jobs Risk At Phones 4u

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8:23am 15th September 2014
(Updated 8:23am 15th September 2014)

Dozens of jobs are at risk at Phones4u in Cornwall, after the retailer said it was forced into administration.

The chain has branches in Newquay, Truro, Falmouth and Penzance.

It is after network operator EE joined Vodafone in cutting ties with the firm.

The retailer, which employs 5,596 people across the UK, says its 550 standalone stores will be closed until the administrators decide on whether the business can reopen for trading.

The company said the decision by EE not to renew its current contract, which is due to end in September next year, was a "complete shock" and meant it would be left without a single network partner after Vodafone said earlier this month that it would not extend its agreement.

Phones 4u says it has a healthy balance sheet with profits of more than £100m, but had no option but to go into administration.

Chief executive David Kassler said: "Today is a very sad day for our customers and our staff.

"If the mobile network operators decline to supply us, we do not have a business.

"A good company making profits of over £100m, employing thousands of decent people has been forced into administration.

"The great service we have provided should have guaranteed a strong future, but unfortunately our network partners have decided otherwise.

"The ultimate result will be less competition, less choice and higher prices for mobile customers in UK."

Staff have been asked to report to work as normal on Monday morning when they will be briefed by management.

Phones 4u said all mobile contracts bought through Phones 4u will remain unaffected and the networks will continue to provide mobile services to these customers.

The process of appointing PwC as an administrator is expected to take place on Monday.

Stefano Quadrio Curzio of BC Partners, Phones 4U's private equity owner, said: "Our overriding concern is for all the dedicated hard-working employees of Phones 4u at a time of uncertainty for the company.

"Vodafone has acted in exactly the opposite way to what they had consistently indicated to the management of Phones 4u over more than six months.

"Their behaviour appears to have been designed to inflict the maximum damage to their partner of 15 years, giving Phones 4u no time to develop commercial alternatives.

"EE's decision on Friday is surprising in the context of a contract that has more than a year to run and leaves the board with no alternative but to seek the Administrator's protection in the interests of all its stakeholders."

A spokesperson for EE said: "In line with our strategy to focus on growth in our direct channels and to move to fewer, deeper relationships in the indirect channel, and driven by developments in the marketplace that have called into question the long term viability of the Phones 4u business, we can confirm that we have taken the decision not to extend our contract beyond September 2015.

"We will monitor developments and work to provide any necessary support for customers who joined EE through Phones 4u."

The business was set up by entrepreneur John Caudwell in the mid-1980s.

By the time he sold it for £1.5bn in 2006 it was selling 26 phones a minute and employed 10,000 people. It generated sales of more than £2.25bn.

8:23am 15th September 2014

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