Fanning steps down at Smart

8 Sep 2006

The founder and chief executive of broadband and telecoms company Smart Telecom Oisin Fanning (pictured) has decided to step down from the company, citing health reasons.

From the debris of Fanning’s failed stockbroking business MMI in 1999, Smart Telecom was formed when Fanning raised €2.5m in private equity funding which he used to buy the prepaid call cards business of Switchcom for €600,000. Fanning went on to acquire the phonebox business of Alphyra for €2.4m as well as a further 600 payphones from Esat BT, which divested itself of this business for a sum of €1.2m.

In September 2004 Fanning floated Smart Telecom on London’s AIM market raising €10m. Last December the company raised a further €56.7m in new funds and in January launched a recruitment drive to hire 130 workers.

However, despite raising significant funds and unveiling an aggressive broadband strategy, Smart Telecom has fallen behind on its target of 35,000 broadband subscribers this year, yielding only 18,000. This culminated with the dismissal of 26 sales and marketing staff in recent weeks from the company. Factors such as local loop unbundling (LLU) problems and consumers’ unwillingness to change their phone number to accommodate broadband have played a role.

As well as this, after winning Ireland’s fourth 3G licence from the Commission for Communications Regulation (ComReg), Smart has been embroiled in a High Court battle with the regulator over ComReg’s decision to withdraw the licence.

In a statement this afternoon following the company’s AGM, the company said it has commenced a strategic review of its business plan and operations that will be concluded by the end of September.

Ciaran Casey, chief operations officer at Smart, has been appointed by the company’s board to lead the strategic review.

Casey commented: “Smart Telecom is facing into a challenging period but we are confident that a refocused and reinvigorated Smart will succeed in the Irish telecommunications market. The strategic review announced by the company today is about getting back to basics and will reconfigure the company to focus on profitable and high-growth market segments.”

“I look forward to working with our staff and stakeholders to make Smart Telecom a profitable and successful company. On behalf of the board and the company I want to wish Oisin the very best for the future. He built Smart Telecom from a tiny start-up into one of the most vibrant companies in the Irish telecommunications sector. His energy and enthusiasm were major factors in the growth of Smart,” Casey said.

The company revealed that it now has 16,500 connected residential broadband customers and a further 2,500 in the process of connection.

The company also has 160 corporate customers, including a number of blue-chip customers.

By John Kennedy