Japanese carrier NTT Docomo today announced one more acquisition in Europe both to continue building out its operations in the region and beyond vanilla offerings like voice and mobile data: it is acquiring fine trade, an e-commerce and payment solution provider based out of Austria.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed but we’re trying to find out. The price, NTT Docomo tells us, is in the “several tens of millions of Euros,” along with a reason for why it cannot be more specific: “We cannot disclose the exact price as it affects the business development,” a spokesperson says.
The deal is the latest in a series of moves by the Japanese carrier to build out is business in Europe. Last year, it paid $300 million to acquire mobile content company Buongiorno in Italy. After that it participated in a $19 million funding round for femocell maker Ubiquisys, based out of England.
The acquisition of fine trade operationally fits with what Docomo has been doing with Buongiorno.
As you can see from the diagram below, Docomo’s put Buongiorno’s carrier billing mobile payment platform alongside its existing net-m solution; it sells this as a service to mobile content companies (and for the content that Buongiorno itself produces and sells).
Fine trade, meanwhile, will sit alongside this providing a platform for so that partners will have the option of offering customers the ability to pay for goods and services online by invoice, credit card, direct debit and other methods. If you go to fine trade’s site, it looks like one of its stronger areas is in the area of providing liquidity to merchants so that they can accept payments by invoice without being strapped for cash. Fine trade will operate under Docomo’s subsidiary, Docomo Deutschland, which also controls Bongiorno and net-m.
“In Europe, Docomo’s group companies have been providing mobile operators and content/service providers with payment platforms that enable fees for digital content used by subscribers to be added conveniently to their phone bills. Concurrently, the companies also have been expanding their finance and payment business by leveraging their banking and credit-card business licenses,” Docomo notes in a statement. “Through its investment in fine trade, DeDocomo will now expand its payment platform portfolio in Europe to include the online retail market for consumer goods, where fine trade operates its own payment platform business.”
Indeed, this looks to be as much about offering customers more options for payments and billing as it is about wider plans for Docomo to take its services and revenue generation not only to new markets beyond Japan, but also into new areas — a move being made by many carriers (Telefonica is another example) as services like voice and data become increasingly commoditized.
“fine trade is a unique and innovative player in the worlds of e- and m-commerce,” Hiroyuki Sato, Chief Executive Officer of DDL (the German subsidiary), said in a statement. “I’ve long held the view that disruptive innovation is possible in the financial industry, much the same as mobile devices and the Internet revolutionized the telecom industry. DOCOMO, which has played a pioneering role in telecom, looks forward to playing a disruptively innovative role with fine trade, which shares our vision of becoming a Smart Life Partner.”
And in the world of e-commerce, which is predicated so strongly on economies of scale, getting acquired by a bigger company is perhaps a no-brainer for fine trade.
“We share the vision to pursue smart innovations in the e- and m-commerce area with DDL,” said Dr. Marcel Vaschauner, Chief Executive Officer and founder of fine trade, in a statement. “Through the acquisition, we are equipped with strong backup and can create synergies at the same time. These synergies will enable fine trade to realize its vision to offer innovative solutions for e- and m-commerce faster than ever before, and to enhance payment services for retailers and customers. Now we are delighted to continue our growth strategy as a DDL group member.”
Docomo says that as part of the deal, which it expects to complete by late October subject to clearance from the clearance by the German Federal Cartel Office, it will buy a 75% stake from Three Little Birds AG and another 25% from Schneider Holding.