PCCW, the city's biggest telecommunications operator, will boost its exposure to the English-speaking call-centre business by paying HK$170 million for Philippine investment firm IPBPO Holdings. The deal will give PCCW controlling 70 per cent stakes in two call-centre firms. PCCW said one of the firms, Interactive Teleservices Corp, provided contact centre services from six English-speaking centres in Ohio and Nebraska in the United States, and a Spanish-language service from Panama. The other firm, BPO Teleservices, operates two Manila contact centres for US companies. 'The acquisition represents a major step in our growth strategy for contact centre businesses,' said Tony Bruno, PCCW teleservices director. 'The newly added assets will not only provide us with significant English and Spanish-speaking capabilities to complement the core businesses in Hong Kong and on the mainland, but also give us access to the US, which is the largest contact centre market in the world.' It is a return to its core operations for PCCW, which spent a good chunk of the early part of the year in court over a HK$15.93 billion buyout deal launched by its controlling shareholders. The deal lapsed in April after failing to secure court approval. The acquisition will lift the total number of PCCW's agents by 2,500 to 5,500. PCCW already has call-centre operations in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Taipei providing services in 15 languages. Cathay Pacific Airways is one of its clients. The acquisition followed an agreement between the two companies in March 2007 in which IPBPO provided call-centre services in the Philippines to meet the English-language needs of PCCW Teleservices' clients in other parts of the world. PCCW, which holds 70 per cent of the local fixed-line market, is trying to maintain core telecommunications revenue growth at a time when mobile operators are eroding fixed-line revenue by convincing users to choose mobile over fixed. PCCW will unveil a new mobile broadband service today to lure users to share broadband connectivity outdoors through a 3.5G modem. Macquarie Group said PCCW's telecommunications earnings would drop 5 per cent by the end of this year on falling average revenue per user. Shares in PCCW yesterday rose 1.4 per cent to HK$2.17.