Not made in China: Luxury phone maker Vertu targeting Asia after sale to Chinese investors but vows to retain British craftsmanship

PUBLISHED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Friday, 13 November, 2015, 6:08pm

Luxury mobile phone maker Vertu will target the Chinese market but keep its “made in England” tagline and home production base despite having come under Chinese ownership, it said Friday.

The company expects to find in China a lucrative niche for its proudly tumpeted bespoke mobile phones, which sell for upwards of US$6,000 and are painstakingly handcrafted in Britain.

It was snapped up by a group of Chinese investors led by Hong Kong’s Godin Holdings last month.

Vertu CEO Billy Crotty said the company will maintain its manufacturing base in southern England despite the decision by Sweden’s EQT VI to offload it to a country famous for its cheap factories and labour.

Crotty said the move would allow the company to grow its market in China and develop its technology further.

“I would like to make clear that the Vertu brand will retain its integrity as being handmade in England, headquartered in Hampshire,” he said.

The investment from Godin, which is backed by a group of international investors, will also give the company the necessary capital to expand,” he added.

“Godin’s knowledge of the China market and the knowledge of key customers will also support us as we look to expand our product portfolio.”

Vertu’s manufacturing base in Hampshire employs 450 people, representing about half of its global workforce.

The company shipped its first mobile phone in 2002 and has now sold 450,000 devices worldwide at an average price of US$6,500 apiece.

Vertu’s signature collection starts at HK$111,500 (US$14,390) in Hong Kong, while its Aster Collect touchscreen can’t be had for less than HK$49,800.

EQT VI announced the sale in mid-October and said the transaction details would not be disclosed. It bought the company from Nokia in 2012.

Gordon Watson, vice president of sales and marketing for Vertu, said the market for luxury mobile phones and Vertu’s services remains strong in China. He also discussed expansion plans.

“We see growth coming out of China through further investments that we plan on making in people, in training our staff,” Watson said.

“But we’re also looking at opportunities in cities or areas where we may not be present.”

Crotty replaces former CEO Massimiliano Pogliani, who stepped down last month.

Vertu’s concierge and lifestyle services will be rolled into Vertu Club, adding financial and healthcare assistance to customers. Customers can also enjoy access to a 24-hour concierge and exclusive events, Crotty said.