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Anonymous Tip: Who’s about to buy MBlox?

I had a reliable source tell me that MBlox, the world’s largest mobile transaction network, is up for sale.

My source’s choice of words:

“Up for sale”

As apposed to:

“About to be acquired”

… is interesting and rather telling. Either someone’s made a brilliant offer, or someone there wants an exit. I couldn’t remember if they were a public company. They’re one of those companies that I keep thinking is on AIM — but isn’t. I had a quick look at the investor section on their site. BA Ventures, Duff Ackerman & Goodrich, Novus Ventures, Norwest Venture Partners, Trident Capital — they’re all going to want to knock back some spiffy returns to their main funds I’m sure.

MBlox got $25m in Feburary this year. Interesting that they didn’t raise $50m. Or $100m. That gives an indication as to the size and valuations. Roughly. So back-of-fag-packet calculations indicate that they’re nicely primed for an acquisition. It’s the sort of company you’d see Verisign or someone like that buy. You know, a company that wasn’t really into mobile per se, but wants send a signal to the market that it wants to be a mobile player too — and has loads of stock and a bit of cash to swap. Or perhaps an existing mobile conglomerate.

Have you heard any rumblings about MBlox?

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

9 replies on “Anonymous Tip: Who’s about to buy MBlox?”

Verisign the company that isn’t into mobile but has recently aquired mQube, 3United, and let’s not forget Jamba!! Neither MQube or 3United had UK connectivity as far as I can tell but Jamster has (or did) have direct UK network connectivity for wholesale SMS billing, such that Verisign does have a relatively easy ride into the UK market in terms of getting set up, if note gaining traction.

Jamba were – if not still are – an MBlox customer in the UK. It came out in the wash last year when the whole ‘Crazy Frog’ debacle kicked off as after an investigation ICSTIS fined MBlox £40k as they were the service provider maintaining contracts with the six UK networks allowing Jamba to deliver their subscription service.

If you dig a bit deeper into Verisign, they’re quite busy in the wholesale/carrier side of mobile. With Jamba they’ve got the consumer side quite nicely looked after, so if you add Mblox into the mix you’ve got that missing link to go into the middle the mobile chain.

I suspect Jamba still route some traffic through mBlox in the UK, but they also leveraged direct connectivity and I believe moved most traffic to go through those pipes.

mQube is a US SMS aggregator and is second only to mBlox’s number 1 status, such that Verisign already has this area covered, certainly in their key market. Buying mBlox would add further global coverage, but suspect may be a bit pointless for Verisign, and there are alternatives they could pick up more cheaply that would give them coverage in remaining key target markets.

Could this be Avant Capital Plc looking for an exit of their 7.9% stake in mblox?

Recent activity in Avanti suggest they are looking to liquidate assests to return value to shareholders. The current book value of their stake in mblox is around £5.6m valuing the whole of mblox at around £70.9m.

Many shareholders are of the opinion ( I for one ) that this is a vast under estimate of mblox true value. Difficult to get financial or trading figures for mblox, so this is merely speculation.

Below is an extract from Avantis recent final results press release.

mBlox Inc

During February 2006, mBlox successfully closed a $25 million fund-raising,
which was led by a new investor Trident Capital, the $1.5 billion Silicon Valley
venture capital fund, which focuses on businesses providing information
connectivity. The fund-raising was also strongly supported by existing mBlox
investors, including Bank of America Venture Partners, Norwest Venture Partners
and Novus Ventures. The funds were raised by mBlox to support further product
roll out and geographical expansion.

In the fund-raising, Avanti invested a further £1.73 million to bring its total
investment to £3.56 million and its holding in mBlox to 7.9%. As a consequence
of this investment, the carrying value of the company’s shareholding in mBlox
has risen from £1.83 million to £5.6 million.

As at 30 June 2006, the carrying value of its investment was 65 pence per
ordinary share.

Maybe Singapore based Nextnation will want to take them up for US expansion after they are done with Asia traffic. Maybe Sybase will want to buy them for US connectivity after Europe is done. Who knows.

As consolidation takes hold in the mobile world mBlox could become a target for handset manufacturers or global operators? The ability to aggregate the messaging and payment traffic from their OPCO’s via a mobile messaging superhub would be a very useful asset… watch his space.

They’ve just taken another $22m funding. Believe they are losing as much as a third of this amount per annum in losses right now.

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