Smart Telecom seeks to float on AIM stock market

26 Aug 2004

Licensed telco Smart Telecom said today that it is preparing to withdraw its stock listing from the London OFEX and instead have its ordinary shares admitted to trading on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM), which is more geared towards young telecom and technology ventures.

The company has also revealed that it is currently undergoing a funding round worth €15m in a placing of new ordinary shares with institutional and other investors. The company said that it is confident the round will be oversubscribed.

Smart Telecom’s CEO Oisin Fanning said that the imminent move to the AIM market puts the company in a good position to make strides in the Irish telecoms market in the months ahead. “This funding will facilitate our ultimate aim of unbundling the local Eircom exchange in Ireland and place us in a position to offer a total telecommunications one-stop-shop for our customers.

“We will be able to offer an integrated voice, data and broad band service to customers all over the country and this move will take the telecommunications industry in Ireland to a completely new level,” Fanning said.

From the debris of Fanning’s failed stock broking 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. Smart Telecom now has 35,000 customers and reported annual revenues of over €16m. The company has grown from a staff of 20 people to 180 people. A further 100 jobs are to be created in Cork following the lighting of the metropolitan area network (MAN) there.

Smart has also signed a contract with ESB Telecom to connect the Cork MAN with its own 120km fibre optic network around Dublin, using ESB’s €50m 1,300km network that connects with 11 of the 19 proposed MANs. Smart’s own Dublin network connects into the 2km fibre optic ring around the Digital Hub district as well as the T50 broadband network that straddles the west side of Dublin and Bord Gáis’ Aurora fibre optic network.

The company has connected this network with all the 18 different data centres in Dublin, which then connects to the pan-European Epsilon fibre network that connects with a further 32 data centres across Europe as part of a Smart/Epsilon business pact. A similar alliance has been forged with US-based Beyond The Network (BTN), owned by Hong Kong Telecom, that will connect Smart with all the major US centres of business.

In June Smart Telecom signed a significant technology deal with IT services giant IBM and voice-over IP (VoIP) switching systems player Cirpack to deploy its next generation nationwide network across Ireland to enable single billing and future broadband services.

Once deployed, the system will enable Smart Telecom to engage in single billing services as well as introduce innovative new telecom services to the business and the home. The technology will also enable Smart Telecom to grow its prepaid-service business, optimise its long distance call routing, manage all of its public payphones, lower overall costs and prepare for VoIP to offer to the Irish residential and small and medium-sized enterprise markets. Smart says it specifically sees VoIP as an offering that both residential and corporate customers are now ready to embrace.

By John Kennedy