Luxury phone maker Vertu has been sold by Swedish private equity group EQT to Chinese investors in the latest upheaval in the company’s short tenure.
Originally founded by Nokia in 1998, Vertu was sold to EQT by Nokia in 2012 as the latter tried to revive its smartphone business and just a few short years later, it has been passed on to Hong Kong-based fund, Godin Holdings, who acquired the business alongside “international private investors”. As part of the deal, Vertu Chief Executive, Massimiliano Pogliani, is also stepping down and he said it was
“an appropriate time to pass on the baton of leadership to a new team“.
Vertu shipped its first mobile phone in 2002 but these were running the Symbian OS. It wasn’t until EQT took over in 2012 that the company switched to using the Android OS for its smartphones but even this hasn’t yielded the results the company may have hoped for.
Between 2002 when it launched its first mobile phone and 2015, Vertu is believed to have sold around 450,000 devices worldwide with an average selling price of around £5,000 last year. Vertu was originally formed to create handsets for wealthy customers willing to pay extra for premium materials but a combination of a “bling” image and poor specs yielded less than positive results.
The latest range of Vertu phones – since the buyout by EQT – saw the company update the internals to match the technology available in other handsets as well as “reduced” prices to entice more customers. We say reduced because paying £5,000 for a phone – even with all the premium materials – is still pricey compared to a handset with the same specs but without the materials that is likely to retail for around £500-£700 in the UK.
The latest Vertu handsets cost £7,000 for a basic version but this can rise to £17,000 for a gold frame or bespoke colours, while the most expensive Vertu handsets have retailed for over £200,000. Vertu will continue to be based in its headquarters and manufacturing facility in Hampshire, England and it’s unclear whether the buyout by Chinese investors will result in any redundancies.