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(DON RYAN)
(DON RYAN)

Glentel looks south, snaps up U.S. chain Add to ...

Glentel Inc. , a cellphone retailer based in Burnaby, B.C., has found in the United States something it couldn't find in Canada: a chain of wireless technology stores willing to be bought up.

Glentel, which operates about 280 stores across Canada, said Monday it will pay about $50-million (U.S.) to buy the 128-store Diamond Wireless chain - the biggest third-party retailer for Verizon Communications Inc. in the American West.

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"Going forward, the carriers do need to have distribution, and very strong distribution," Thomas Skidmore, Glentel's president and chief executive officer, said in an interview.

The move, Glentel's first foray south of the border, comes after repeated failures to expand in Canada, where the large wireless carriers have been busy buying up retail chains themselves and inking agreements with non-traditional retail venues, like pharmacies and video rental stores.

Glentel runs three types of outlets that sell brands from both BCE Inc. and Rogers Communications Inc.: WirelessWave and Telephone Booth stores, as well as the Wireless Etc. kiosks in Costco Wholesale Corp. locations.

Mr. Skidmore said the company had aggressively tried but failed to make strategic acquisitions in Canada. The targets included The Source, which BCE snapped up; the Black's photography chain, acquired by Telus Corp.; and Cityfone Telecommunications Inc., an online cellphone reseller which Rogers bought last month.

The flurry of retail expansion preceded the arrival of new wireless competitors in Canada. The actual launches of new players saw renewed deal-making: Wind Mobile inked a deal with Blockbuster Inc., for example; Rogers announced a pilot project to sell devices in Shoppers Drug Mart stores; and Public Mobile partnered with Gateway Newstands.

The more-mature U.S. wireless market has already been through new-entrant tumult, and Mr. Skidmore said the company's plan is to follow Verizon's growth by expanding the Diamond chain, especially in southern states. He said he will also continue to expand in Canada, especially in Quebec.

"There are other opportunities like this is in the United States," Mr. Skidmore added. "Will we look at them? Absolutely."

GLENTEL (GLN)

Close: $19, up $1.75

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