Vodafone UK and EE are to take over some of the 550 retail stores belonging to Phones 4U after the independent retailer went into administration last week.
Vodafone released a statement saying it had agreed with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC), Phones 4U’s administrator, to take over 140 retail stores as part of its retail expansion programme.
Around 900 former Phones 4U employees will keep their job thanks to the move, with work to rebrand the stores taking place as soon as possible.
In addition, UK number-one operator EE said it has agreed to purchase 58 Phones 4U stores, saving 359 jobs. Both agreements are subject to court approval.
A total of 5,600 people worked for Phones 4U, all of whom were informed last week that they would continue to be paid until further notice.
As well as the two operators, the recently-formed Dixons Carphone has been linked to acquiring Phones 4U stores. Bloomberg sources said the Internet-of-Things-focused retailer is in talks with PwC and could make an announcement today.
Phones 4U announced it had gone into administration last week, after EE informed it of its decision not to renew its distribution contract that expires in a year’s time.
EE’s decision followed Vodafone’s announcement that it would not continue its relationship with Phones 4U beyond February 2015, when the existing contract is due to expire.
Vodafone representatives claimed negotiations with Phones 4U failed because the retailer was unable to offer competitive terms due to its debt repayment obligations.
Phones 4U said in a press release that the decisions of Vodafone and EE “have come as a complete shock to the business” with both having “consistently indicated that they saw Phones 4U as a long-term strategic partner”.
According to the statement, the two operators “currently represent in excess of 90 per cent of connections made by Phones 4U”.
The other two UK mobile operators, O2 and 3 UK, previously announced plans to withdraw after a review of their activities with third-party retailers, which compete with their own-brand stores.
Taking into consideration the loss of EE and Vodafone, the company concluded that there is “no reasonable prospect of avoiding insolvent liquidation”, meaning it is no longer able to continue to trade.