Update: WIND Mobile in talks to acquire Mobilicity’s subscribers, report says

Ian Hardy

September 4, 2013 6:31 am

When the $380 million deal between TELUS and Mobilicity (legally known as Data & Audio-Visual Enterprises) was axed back in June, rival carrier WIND Mobile expressed interest in a potential acquisition. Tony Lacavera, WIND Mobile’s Chairman and CEO, stated at the time that they will take “another look at Mobilicity since there could be one less bidder for it.”

Mobilicity was last reported to have over 250,000 subscribers, 150 employees and riddled with losing millions of dollars per day, now reportedly $500 million dollars in debt. A new story by the Financial Post this morning has WIND Mobile scooping up Mobilicity’s now 200,000 subscribers. The finer details of the transaction are still being worked out, but apparently it’s for “little-to-no financial compensation.”

Mobilicity currently operates in Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver and the AWS spectrum they purchased back in 2008 would be a separate deal that would potentially reduce its investors debt. WIND Mobile, who’s also seeking a buyer, has over 620,000 subscribers and a monthly ARPU of $27.90.


Update: We’re now hearing additional details from various sources, specifically that the transaction will occur ‘in weeks’ for about $40 million, plus that Mobilicity now has approximately 180,000 subscribers. In addition, since the carriers are not legally entitled to sell their spectrum until 2014, the plan is to sell the spectrum to the highest bidder. If true, then the value per subscriber is about $222.


Update #2: Apparently all this talk about a WIND and Mobilicity subscriber merger is not true. In a report by the Canadian Press, Bill Aziz, Mobilicity’s CRO (chief restructuring officer), stated that the published report about the subscriber deal with Wind Mobile isn’t true. However, our sources still indicate that talks are currently happening.


(Thanks tipsters!)

  • jetbeck

    They should of joined forces or had some sort of deal a year ago.

    • Plazmic Flame

      Agreed. I think that they should have tried to get the spectrum as well because if they add 250k to WINDs existing network… I don’t think it’s going to be pretty…

    • bobfreeze

      However they would also get Mobilicity’s network, so a bit of a wash…

    • Carl Hall

      no @bobfreeze:disqus the spectrum and network would still be the property of DAVE

    • Robert Chartier

      I don’t think they can buy it to 2014 the spectrum that is. by the way plazmic flame love your avatar.

  • djino

    But will WIND also have enough money to bid in the 700mhz spectrum? I guess we find out later this month.

  • hardy83

    Don’t expect those 150 jobs to be when the subs carry over to Wind.

    • skullan

      No, they will likely be considered redundant.

      Then again, we would be deluded to think that any Canadian corporation would keep them more than a year (for transition).

      It would likely be even faster since the carrier wouldn’t be transferring spectrum, just subscribers.

    • hardy83

      No, I wouldn’t have expected the big three to keep these jobs either.

    • J-Ro

      They would like keep the best out of the bunch, as I’m sure Wind will as well.

    • Alex

      Unfortunately it would seem likely if the buy out occurred.

      A lot of the coverage areas overlap and you don’t need 2 sales teams.

  • Carl Hall

    would be nice to finally have Mobi stopping losing money but I hope all the Mobi plans get grandfathered

    • Plazmic Flame

      Do you currently have a plan with Mobi?

    • Carl Hall

      nope, im with Wind…but I know a few ppl on Mobi

    • alphs22

      Wind has a cash flow issue, and grandfathering Mobi’s even cheaper plans would do them no good.

    • Carl Hall

      cash flow issue? last I checked Vimpelcom had more than enough money, plus it increases their subscriber counts, which in turn makes it more valuable to a prospective buyer

      yes, the Canadian business may be losing money, but not necessarily a big deal in the big scheme of things

    • alphs22

      Nothing you’ve said really changes the fact that Wind has a cash flow issue. Good try though.

      “yes, the Canadian business may be losing money, but not necessarily a big deal in the big scheme of things”

      Good thing you’re not running a business.

    • Carl Hall

      they are the closest to being profitable out of the 3 newcomers that launched, despite spending the most on spectrum, the most on expansion, and the hardware subsidies

      while its true that Wind wont be profitable for quite some time, that’s the nature of the current wireless industry.

      Money needs to be spent on spectrum, expansion and acquisitions if they are going to compete, however it doesn’t mean its bad business sense to have the company losing money at this stage of the game

      The network buildout needs to be aggressive in order to attract new customers, in the long run, it will be profitable albeit with slightly higher pricing

    • alphs22

      You’re talking like there’s a long-term plan for Wind to compete in the market. Did you miss all the news this year about how Wind has been put up for sale?

      Anything they do nowadays is to increase their value for sale – which will probably happen next year. I’d bet that one of the big 3 will end up buying it and picking up all Wind’s subscribers.

      Wind has largely been a failure. By their own targets they should be at 1.5 to 2 million subscribers at this time, so 600k or 800k (with Mobi’s subscribers) is still well short.

      Their bet was that there would be a lot of urban users willing to use an inferior AWS network and live with limited coverage for a bargain price. Unfortunately, they learned the hard way that you don’t make money when a good portion of your subscribers are data-heavy users paying $25-$30/month to clog your network – making your inferior network that much less usable.

      Another large mistake they made was when they passed on the iPhone, which has huge mass appeal. Last year their COO said “The iPhone 5, or iPhone in general, is not a huge factor for us” and that Wind customers aren’t “entirely interested in those kinds of phones”. Stupid thing to say when you’re failing to entice people to switch to your company.

      His statements are especially funny because T-Mo recorded record growth after they picked up the iPhone.

    • J-Ro

      He said that but the truth was likely that they can’t afford the iPhone. They have very limited flagship phones for a reason and I bet Apple, being as big as they are has terms to purchase iPhones in bulk.

      With little demand to negotiate with Wind would likely get the phones at an unattractive price, not have the ability to send them back if they don’t sell and likely a promise to buy a certain amount before they are even considered to carrier it.

      that is just a guess but with the weight Apple has, nothing is stopping them from doing that.

    • Carl Hall

      Yes, Wind was put up for sale, it doesn’t mean that you give up and stop competing.

      The Harper Government has already said it will block spectrum transfers that would create an undue concentration of spectrum

      and the AWS spectrum Wind uses is only an issue since they don’t have that much bandwidth available, its the same as T-Mobile, and the same the big three use for LTE which works fine! If Wind picks up the remaining AWS spectrum Mobi has next year, the network will be better

      Last year, the iPhone wasn’t compatible with the AWS network, so it was a moot point….you are free to walk into an Apple store and pick up an iPhone with the needed bands and activate it on Wind. Maybe now Apple are introducing the new iPhone soon, then Wind may pick it up. They aren’t the only new entrant without the iPhone..just like Eastlink andVideotron

    • Sweet

      “If Wind picks up the remaining AWS spectrum Mobi has next year, the network will be better”

      Not if Wind is also getting Mobi’s customers. A while ago Mobi had said that their bandwidth is just about saturated. So buying Mobi’s spectrum and users won’t provide Wind with extra breathing room in their spectrum.

      Wind can’t sell the iPhone unless they make a deal with Apple. From what I’ve read, Apple will demand that Wind sell a minimum number of iPhones, and that number is in the millions. Sprint signed such a deal. As of last year, they were coming up quite short of their quota and risked facing huge penalties that one analyst said were so big it could put Sprint into bankruptcy.

    • Canucks

      Most likely they won’t keep the plans. I still don’t get why people think having cheap plans to compete in Canada is the only way to go.

      Offering cheap plan is only a good strategy in the beginning when starting a business. Company needs to maintain good network and coverage while having a profit. It also need to expand as time goes by. All of these cost money!

  • Stephen_81

    Will be good to see WIND get the chance to grow and not go belly up.

    They need to get that ARPU up over $35 if they hope to last long term no national carrier in Canada the UK or Europe as a ARPU so low.

    While I don’t see myself going WIND in the next 2-4 years I would like to see them as an option for Canadians who are tired of the Big3

    • alphs22

      It’ll be challenging for them to raise their plans while still retaining their customers.

      Realistically they’ll have to raise their plans by $10-15 to stop bleeding money. But at those price points, the incumbents’ plans with superior coverage start to look better as well.

      Their 2012 ARPU was a paltry $28.10.

    • Alex

      If they need to raise cash they will need to raise prices as you say.

      Some back of the envelope ideas:
      “Reduction of “benefits”:
      - Make the $30 plan have say a 2.5GB data limit and keep the $40 as the “unlimited*”. They might not wish to go that route as the whole advertising point of WIND is unlimited* everything.
      - Tweak the tab so it’s only 5% instead of 10% per month for new customers.
      - Tweak the multiple lines on one account discounts. At the moment 2 lines = $5 off. Make it $3 for example. Do the same sort of thing for the other amounts of lines.

      “Actual cost increase ideas:”
      - Introduce a $10 activation fee.
      - Up the “extra addons” a bit. For example make the “Preferred US Roaming” $7 instead of $5.

      All pretty minor changes that don’t really hurt the customer that much but can raise the revenue by a dollar or two here and there.

    • Stephen_81

      problem is they need to raise it by closer to $7 not a simple dollar. They need to get more people onto the $40 unlimited plan, except that I suspect that that Plan has higher costs. if the incumbents break even is $37 RPU with all their bloat and limiting plans an unlimited plan has to be getting close to that to maintain, a profit of just $3-5/user per month isn’t even close to enough to get capital to expand.
      Ideally WIND would offer their low cost plans with limitations as you suggest and they’d reduce the liability they incur with discounting devices by not discounting anymore.
      That would allow them to keep plans down. but I really think their unlimited plan is going to need to be $50 to get a respectable ARPU

    • J-Ro

      What you said, is exactly what everyone else says and exactly why they are doing poorly. Their business is good in theory but in real life, you can’t survive without profit. Either they increase their prices to the point where it is no longer attractive or a lot of Canadians have to suck it up and use their service LONG TERM.

      Until then, Wind has no future in Canadian Telecom.

    • Canucks

      Only if Wind lasts that long. Canadian market is so small compare to other countries. Wind really needs to raise the price at least $10 more to not go bankrupt within couple of years.

      I am going to get vote down on this but I am going to say it anyways. I know it sounds good to offer unlimited plan but it doesn’t work for Canadian market. 5GB to 10GB sounds fair on the $40 plan. Nothing is free. Wake up.

  • IJustGotaTan

    Makes sense. This will improve coverage and help expansion.

    • Carl Hall

      its not gonna improve service yet, since the deal reportedly doesn’t include spectrum

    • IJustGotaTan

      The spectrum would be acquired in a separate deal and since the Big3 cannot buy it, it would also make sense to have Wind buy it.

    • Carl Hall

      yes it would, but they have 14 days to finalize a deal…after the 17th, they can’t negotiate any spectrum deals till after the auction closes

    • alphs22

      The big 3 can’t buy it today, but next year they would be able to (5-year rule from 2009).

      In my opinion Mobi will end up selling their spectrum to one of them next year since they’ll be able to offer more money.

    • Sweet

      IMO, Wind is better off not buying the AWS spectrum, and using that money to buy 700MHz spectrum.

  • rivard35

    I think WInd is doing a really good job Driving sales so far as well as improving service as they go.

    Its hard to want to join Mobilcity when you have to drop full price on a phone and lack of choices for flagship phones is alarming

  • Balls O’Steele

    Long overdue. They were sitting on unused spectrum and not expanding coverage. Total waste of bandwidth.

    • Savbers

      Hard to expand when you don’t have money!

    • Sweet

      Are you talking about Wind or Mobilicity ? Mobilicity already said a while ago that they’ve just about saturated their bandwidth.

  • Savbers

    It seems wind has been saving up for this transaction itself! It hasn’t added another tower since June 21st!

    • Plazmic Flame

      That’s what people do when they want to buy things, lol. Save up a little.

  • Thomas C. Riddell

    It better then big 3 getting the Spectrum hope they have a cash to bid in the 700mhz spectrum?

    • Plazmic Flame

      Let us hope…

  • NotARogersEmployee

    I guess Mobilicity wasn’t bluffing about going out of business.

  • juleso

    Has WIND given up on upgrading its entire “old network” (particularly in the GTA) to HSPA+?

    There’s all this talk about new spectrum whereas there are still so many areas that are still at HSPA data speeds.

    • Carl Hall

      once they get the new subs, they can acquire the spectrum as well, but it would have to be next year

    • fmradio68

      I hope they can buy some spectrum in Quebec, It will be hard as Videotron willl do everything by outbidding to block competition.

    • Sweet

      My understanding is that 5-year ban is for sales of new-entrant spectrum to the Big 3, but not for sales to other new entrants. So they’re allowed to sell their new spectrum to another new entrant before then. That’s the way I understand it.

  • hoo dat

    Mobilicity last reported having 200,000 subs, not 250,000, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the number’s significantly lower than that now. I think this is a good deal for both parties; for WIND, they get a decent boost to their sub numbers, and for Mobilicity they rid themselves of a base that’s costing them money rather than creating income. I would also hazard a guess that any potential buyer would find little or no value in their subscribers. Now Mobilicity can concentrate on winding up the company and achieving better returns for the debt holders.

    • hoo dat

      That’s Bitove for you.

  • tyresmoke

    Wind’s slow network is about to get 30% more users without any additional spectrum or network upgrades? Great, we get to support 200,000 of Canada’s lowest ARPU cheapskates.

    • ToniCipriani

      Since when is being frugal “cheapskate”? I would go on WIND if my phone supported them.

    • Thomas C. Riddell

      Come people can’t afford to spend 50.00 a Month on Cell phone
      My wind Plan is Unlimted Data local calling in wind Network
      I don’t use long Distance on it I use skype for those
      Wind is not for Keepsakes Sir it for people who need a cellphone but can’t afford the big 3 Outrages Rates

    • J-Ro

      $50 a month is reasonable but depends on what your getting.

    • Thomas C. Riddell

      Maybe to you but not to me
      30.00 is my Limit if ever gose past 30.00
      I’ll go back to Not having a Cellphone and Get Voice over IP for 20,00

    • Canucks

      $30? Tell me a company that offer a plan for voice and data with that price that doesn’t end up like Mobilicity.
      $50 sounds more realistic. You should get a job to pay for your bill or stick with your VOIP.

    • Thomas C. Riddell

      Not all of us are able to work I am Disabled in a wheel chair
      Palatalized from Waist Down
      Wind is good company If I Fall out my chair I need mobile phone to call for help

      still cost too much compared with Asia and Europe Mobile providers. asian Plans 13 to 30 dollars .

      Most of world Rates are around 30 to 40 Dollars including Data

      Where are being Ripped off this why I am glad we have wind

    • Canucks

      You can’t compare to some Asian cities when their minimum wages are 3 to 5 times lower than ours. Which Europe provider are you comparing? I was in UK and they charge around 30 pounds which is $50 Canadian for voice and 750MB.

      If you need help like that then a real land line with cordless phone is what you need, not a cellphone that sometimes can have bad reception.

    • Thomas C. Riddell

      That don’t work if I am not home

    • J-Ro

      You could get a Wind phone with Wind or a T-Mobile phone, that is, if you really were going to support them.

    • ToniCipriani

      Find me a webOS phone that runs on AWS.

    • J-Ro

      Try T-Mobile or if you really wanted to support them, make the sacrifice. You can’t expect things to change if you do nothing to change them.

    • Alex

      Find any webOS phone anywhere…

    • ToniCipriani

      I have one in my hand.

    • Alex

      When you joining the modern world?

    • ToniCipriani

      Not until manufacturers (minus BlackBerry) stop shoving the virtual keyboard crap down our throats.

    • Alex

      How slow are you finding it? I don’t find it slow at all.

    • Anaron

      I pay $40/month for my Holiday Miracle Plan with WIND. It’s an unlimited everything plan except for long distance calling outside of North America. Does that make me a cheapskate? Mobilicity offered a similar plan for $35/month.

  • Hugo Beaulieu

    wow… If I were an investor/stockholder in Mobilicity I’d be pissed at the federal government and sue them for the difference between that and the Telus deal!

    • Carl Hall

      why? the investors knew the rules (or at least they should have) the government just applied the rules as they were written when DAVE bid on the spectrum

  • J-Ro

    Wind is trying their best to survive in the market. Now it is up to the people that claim they want change to support them. I know many will have excuse as to why they can’t but if “most” Canadians want change and they have service near the most dense areas in Canada, Why only 600k subscribers?

    Coming to MS and reading these topics always makes me question this.

    (I expect plenty of excuses for asking this question)

    • HelloCDN

      How about this one – why are they charging the same money as BIG 3 for Galaxy S4, while it’s cut off from LTE network?
      And finally, the top reason – iPhone. It doesn’t matter if you love or hate Apple, but it has a huge market share, and a lot of people want it.

    • J-Ro

      I agree 100%. If you don’t mind me asking, which carrier are you with?

    • Carl Hall

      apple only recently released the AWS capable iphone

    • jeff

      I like the wind setup, and and have had a data plan with them previously. here comes my excuse…. I live just outside of the “zone” so every phone call or my I use would be charged at the roaming rates… I also do quite a bit of recreational activities outside of the city zones, so again I’d be roaming. if they were able to build out their network I’d switch.

    • J-Ro

      That is fair. By next year, they should have the network to support your area.

  • Willy

    Yes. New entrants should merger to compete with big 3 better.

  • erereet

    yes! more subscribers to share what is an already crappy network. woohoo!

  • Ken

    I just Googled this item and an executive for Mobi said that it was a rumor but you can be assured that something will happened. Mobi cannot continue bleeding.

  • skullan

    Deny, deny, deny… when it happens, rake in your cash, move on. Typical M.O.

  • ns.dev

    All these new/regional carriers should form some sort of alliance and allow free roaming. It might allow more customers on each if they have a larger coverage map.

  • mccans

    Well there is always some truth to rumors. Mobi has no money…so I still think something is going to happen soon.

  • Jay Getty

    Alexmrb, in my opinion, is exactly correct. Wind bet that millions of Canadians in Wind’s home zone could figure out the difference between +/- $40 a month all in: Unlimited calls, text, and data (5gigs) and robulus: +/-$90 a month for convoluted services at certain times; Wind was wrong in that assessment …most Canadians in Wind’s home zone can not even figure out that the only thing liberal about the misnomered named: Liberal party is that the Liberal party liberally squanders/rips off from the public trough, has disdain/contempt for their own voters…and could care less about liberal causes except for paying lip service to them…but they have the name: “Liberal” all Trademarked…

  • alphs22

    Lol Alex.

    Rogers’ Wireless made an operating profit of $821 million in Q2 2013 from a revenue of $1.813B. So they spent approx. $1B to provide their service (salaries, stores, upgrades, etc.). Feel free to look at their quarterly report for Q2. I hope you are smart enough to use Google, but maybe not.

    They have 7.98 million postpaid customers and 1.44 million prepaid customers. That totals approx 9.4 million.

    So that’s about $106 per user in Q2 that they spent to provide that service. That works out to be approx $35 a month.

    Keep in mind this is Rogers, who has been in the business for a very long time and likely is running much more efficient than Wind Mobile.

    So now when you have Wind, the new entrant and likely the less efficient company, only making an average of $28/mo per user – what do you think happens, Alex? Do they lose money or make money? Is this a cash flow issue?

    Let’s hope you are intelligent enough to deduce the answer. But maybe not.

    • alphs22

      Alex,

      Businesses don’t just go out of business when they’re in the red. Once you graduate middle school, you’ll know that.

      When businesses are “started”, most of the time the owner doesn’t have all the money they need. So they take out loans and/or issue shares to generate the capital they need – with the hopes that the company will eventually turn a profit.

      Unfortunately, Wind has been in the red for all 4 years and are struggling (they’re losing millions of dollars a month). Their subscribers are low, and they aren’t generating enough revenue per user (ARPU) to turn any profit. Like I said, even Rogers needs to put in $35/mo/user to keep their network going. If Wind is making $7 less than this per month, you know they’re bleeding a lot of money.

      Wind’s owners have realized that Wind’s future isn’t bright, which is why you see them putting Wind up for sale to cut their losses. Same thing is happening to Mobilicity.

      Please refrain from calling others as “imbeciles” when you clearly know nothing about Wind or business in general.

    • alphs22

      Again, your lack of knowledge and poor reading comprehension is clearly showing.

      “This means that they don’t spend as much as Rogers but still manage to maintain their coverage in Toronto by spending a few million dollars from time to time.”

      How about employee salaries? Cost of opening and maintaining their stores? Not all expenses are related to “maintaining coverage”.

      “And let’s not forget the massive, loss-free $800,000,000 which goes to the head of the company.”

      This has nothing to do with their operating expenses. My guess is that you have 0 knowledge of basic accounting?

      “This also doesn’t include the fact that Rogers itself provides TV, Internet, Home Phone, Wireless and Home Monitoring services to both the average Joe as well as Enterprises.”

      I cited numbers from Rogers Wireless – not any of their other divisions. The $1B in operating cost they spent in Q2 2013 is strictly for Rogers Wireless. Again, feel free to use Google and find the financial statement yourself.

      “This means that the 1 billion spent on wireless gets diluted by not only the fact that almost half of it goes to the head of the corporation.”

      Alex, the $800M (difference between $1.8B revenue and $1.0B operating costs) is their operating profit. This doesn’t change the fact that they spent $1.0B to provide their service in Q2 2013, which is equivalent to $35/month/user.

      Please, just stop. You’re exposing your lack of knowledge in every post. Graduate middle school first then you can start talking about things like this, okay? I can tell you’re trying your hardest to sound smart but you’re coming across as anything but.

    • alphs22

      Alex,

      Obviously Rogers operating expenses are higher, but this is not what was discussed. If you hadn’t noticed, I normalized their costs to a per-user basis ($35/mo/user). If you don’t know what this means, or if at this point you still seriously think that Wind is able to survive long term on an ARPU less than that (currently at ~$28/mo/user), then there’s really no point to this argument. You’re clearly not educated or intelligent enough to comprehend what’s being said.

    • Kalpesh

      I believe if wind was loosing revenue month on month would have opted to raised monthly rate plans by pennies and cents.. about the min cost factor you spoke about, I don’t find the math correct.

  • alphs22

    Alex,

    I can’t tell if you are trolling or just plain stupid. You don’t have a valid point.

    You understand that when you normalize the numbers to a per-user basis, you divide by the number of customers you have right?

    Rogers has a larger network -> more customers. Operating cost of said network is higher, but you divide the cost by a larger number (more customers). This is what normalizing is.

    If you still don’t see how you’re wrong, I’m going to question you even passed elementary school. Take care and get a math tutor.

    • alphs22

      Alex,

      Why would Rogers over-report their expenses and under-report the number of subscribers to their shareholders – thus making their company look worse than it actually is?

      Think hard about this.

    • alphs22

      So now your entire argument rests on your guess that Rogers has a terrible accounting department?

      Their reported numbers in all of their financial statements include Fido and Chatr customers. Like I said, why would they under-report the number of customers they have. I guess I had to spell it out for you.

      Every post you continue to amaze me with your stupidity. Quite entertaining.

    • Kalpesh

      lolz