Luxury smartphone maker Vertu said to be struggling, as staff wages reportedly go unpaid

Vertu has always been a bit of an oddball in the mobile market. Once owned by Nokia, the manufacturer of gaudy handsets with eye-watering price tags was acquired by a private equity firm in 2012, and was sold again to a Chinese investment firm in 2015, before it was bought by Turkish exile Hakan Uzan in March 2017.

But is there still a market for such questionably-styled 'handmade' Android smartphones that cost as much as $50,000 a piece? Demand for such devices may well be drying up, as the company appears to be struggling to pay its bills. But it seems there's more to the story than that.

The Telegraph reports that some of the company's suppliers - which include IT provider Acora and processor giant Qualcomm - have not recently been paid by Vertu Corporation Limited (VCL). Microsoft, which acquired Nokia's devices and services business in 2013, and still owns the lease for VCL's headquarters, is allegedly owed £2.5 million (around $3.2 million) in rent. Property services provider CBRE is said to be owed almost £420,000 ($540,000), most of which is now overdue, and warned VCL that it would stop collecting trash, and providing cleaning and pest control services, last week.

VCL staff are reportedly awaiting their most recent wages too. Around 200 employees were expecting to be paid last week, but lawyers for Uzan are said to have told the workforce that they would not be paid until this Friday. The staff are believed to have sent a formal letter to the company's management demanding to know why pension contributions deducted from their wages in recent months have not been paid into the company's pension fund.

The company's former owner, Hong Kong hedge fund manager Gary Chen, has accused Uzan of the "illegal act" of holding Vertu's shares without providing full payment under the terms of the acquisition deal. Chen claims that on March 24, "after the completion of the equity transfer by Vertu, Mr Uzan's team only provided a bank transfer screenshot." He added: "The bank did not receive the transfer from Mr Uzan... I still [have] not yet received any payment from Mr Uzan."

Uzan's lawyers claimed that the state of Vertu's finances were far worse than Chen had claimed prior to the acquisition, and accused him of "unlawful use of company assets."

Source: The Telegraph

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