Closer to telecoms: Google acquires Grand Central

Google has just announced the acquisition of communications service GrandCentral. TechCrunch broke the news about the acquisition last week and now has the price tag at about $50 m.

According to Google's official blog, GrandCentral is "an innovative service that lets users integrate all of their existing phone numbers and voice mailboxes into one account, which can be accessed from the web. We think GrandCentral's technology fits well into Google's efforts to provide services that enhance the collaborative exchange of information between our users." It is bascially the evolution of the one-number concept which people like Accessline and others have been in for 10 years and more.

However, Google can possibly connect this somewhat more sensibly: Gmail and Google Talk fit smoothly and it will also ramp up the increasing interweave between the different media. In the voice area, Google was rather under-represented and Grand Central's very feature-rich product will be most welcome as it could give Google a bit of an edge here. Also, Google is arguably better suited than some others who tried to reach out directly to mainstream consumers (the likes of Accessline are mainly addressing the enterprise market) as it has a much better grip on alternative business models.

They of course have to quickly address capacity constraints: Grand Central has now moved to an "by invitation only" model because of shortages. Google will be able to help out there, I suppose.

Interesting move anyway...

D2C consolidates: Buongiorno buys I-Touch

eSo following LaNetroZed's acquisition of the majority of Monstermob earlier in the year, Buongiorno now played its part in consolidating the face of mobile D2C by acquiring I-Touch, the previously London-listed player (PDF press release here).

Of course, I-Touch had gone through an M&A spree of its own a couple of years back (it bought Spanish Movilisto and Finnish Jippii [meanwhile split up and perished]) before being gobbled up by Japanese giant For-side.com. Then of course all seemed to have gone a bit pair-shaped: when For-Side bought it, it cost a sweet £ 184m. Earlier this year, the management bought it out from its owner for allegedly $100m. Now, Buongiorno only had to pay about half that, namely €141m (incl. €12m in debt), which equals c. £ 95m or $190m. Someone did make money after all...

After the acquisition, the combined company apparently boasts more than 1,100 people in 20 countries and business in more than 40 countries.

What will this mean for the D2C sector? That with LaNetro and Buongiorno, there are now two more multi-national giants to compete with Jamba/Jamster? I wonder... All of these three had territories where they were/are strong and others where they weren't/aren't. The consolidation basically means that the offering will be less scattered and the players involved will stand a better chance to be recognised in the market, reducing volatility of their business.

Buongiorno is said to have been doing reasonably well in the more recent past: as per their last available quarterly report, revenues, EBITDA and profits were all up and rather healthily. But whilst they are amongst the big spenders in e.g. Italy or the US D2C markets, they were more or less absent from some other markets (the UK for instance). I-Touch and the markets it brings to the deal will help to strengthen their market position and they will be able to push their D2C model even harder now. The added footprint will allow them to get a better grip on pricing (which is something their board was sensitive about).

And here I was thinking that they were balancing it out with B2B, namely platform provision, master aggregation and, more recently marketing (Mitsui JV and acquisitions of Flytxt and HotSMS). But Buongiorno clearly has evolved with two equal columns to stand on. Congrats!

Update: Buongiorno CEO Andrea Casalini is certainly not shy: He said in the FT that they "had looked at other targets, including Jamba [...] and [...] LaNetro Zed, too.