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Vodafone adds 130,000 Lebara customers

AAP logoAAP 13/09/2016 Lilly Vitorovich

Australia's third-biggest mobile operator, Vodafone, has snapped up the local mobile operations of Lebara to add 130,000 customers to its books.

Lebara, which has telecom operations in eight countries, has piggybacked on Vodafone's Australian mobile network as a virtual network operator since 2009.

The acquisition is Vodafone's first significant deal since its merger with Hutchison in 2009 but the company has not said how much the Lebara acquisition cost.

The Lebara brand will continue to operate and its customers will see no change to their service.

Vodafone Hutchison Australia chief strategy officer Dan Lloyd said the move would give Vodafone greater market share, especially with customers who make regular international calls.

"Lebara Mobile has built up a strong brand presence and loyal customer base in Australia, and we see opportunities to grow the business further," Mr Lloyd said on Tuesday.

"Lebara Mobile has established a market-leading niche, enabling migrant communities to stay connected with their loved ones abroad, particularly through very competitive and award-winning international mobile calling."

Vodafone recently reported a 4.5 per cent rise in customer numbers to 5.5 million for the six months to June 30 compared to a year earlier.

Around $4 billion has been spent on improving VHA's network coverage and reliability over the past four years after major network problems triggered a mass customer exodus.

Alvin Lee, senior analyst at research firm Telsyte, said Lebara had been under pressure in Australia with increased competition hurting its growth in recent years.

"The Australian market is experiencing massive price competition and with similar offerings targeting Lebara's traditional customer base."

With around a quarter of Vodafone's Australian mobile network virtual operators (MNVO) wholesale business coming from Lebara, the purchase might be considered a defensive move, Mr Lee said.

Lebara chairman and chief executive Yoganathan Ratheesan said his company prided itself on serving the global migrant community.

"Our Lebara Mobile Australia customers have benefited from our long-term relationship with VHA for many years and we are working with VHA to ensure a seamless transition," he said.

Lebara will continue to operate its Lebara Play streaming service and Lebara Money funds transfer service in Australia.

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