O2 buys Vodafone and EE out of mobile advertising joint venture

O2 takes control of mobile advertising joint venture Weve after partners EE and Vodafone withdraw

Weve, the mobile advertising and erstwhile mobile wallet joint venture owned by the three largest UK mobile network operators (MNOs), is to become a wholly-owned subsidiary of O2 following the withdrawal of EE and Vodafone.

O2, EE and Vodafone first explored the potential of collaborating on standardised mobile wallet tech in 2011.

Weve was launched in 2013 to explore this area and take advantage of pooled customer data in an attempt to create targeted advertising campaigns for enterprise clients. O2 had previously developed its own offering in that space, but axed it in January 2014.

Following the launch of Apple Pay in September 2014, Weve’s mobile wallet programme was wound down. It is understood that O2 no longer sees mobile payments as a major priority, although it is working with Monitise independently of Weve, while both EE and Vodafone have their own offerings in the field.

O2 said that since taking the decision to wind down Weve’s mobile wallet development and focus on mobile as a digital advertising medium, the unit had gone from strength to strength and attracted a number of important new clients, including Ikea, ITV, Monarch and Tesco.

O2 hopes the exit of EE and Vodafone will help Weve – which grew by 45% in a market worth close to £1bn last year – become more agile because it will only have to answer to one shareholder.

“By bringing Weve in-house we will be making it bigger, with an additional 20 million opt-ins through O2 Wi-Fi and Priority,” said O2 digital director Dave Plumb in a brief statement.

“With more datasets and richer analytics, it will be better, and with only one owner to answer to, it will be faster.  Through this acquisition, we will be able to offer our business customers the platform to offer their customers more personal and contextually relevant offers,” he said.

It is also expected to benefit from the forthcoming merger of O2 with Hutchison Whampoa’s Three network.

Financial terms of the buy-out were not disclosed.

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