BT Hooks Teflon-Coated Scoot Out of the Fire

01 July 2002

Scoot, the UK online directory that has survived more near death experiences than the proverbial cat, last week finally made it into the safe haven of BT Group.

Its acquisition did not come a moment too soon: at the beginning of June, Scoot reported its cash reserves had dwindled to just £4.4 million ($6.74m; €6.81m), while pre-tax losses for 2001 at of £180.3m had almost trebled from the previous year’s deficit of £67.2m [WAMN: 04-Jun-02].

BT is offering just over £8m for Scoot comprising £5m in cash and the assumption of over £3m in liabilities such as deferred income balances and certain leases. The deal requires the approval of Scoot shareholders but is likely to be rejected only by the masochists among them.

This is not the first contact between the telecoms giant and the directory operation whose history has (to say the least) been melodramatic.

In 1999 BT issued a writ against Scoot claiming that its salespeople made ‘false and malicious statements’ on at least eight occasions, variously telling prospective advertisers that BT-owned rival Talking Pages no longer existed, had been sold to Scoot, or had changed its name to Scoot. The matter was settled out of court.

The acquisition will take BT into both the online and hard copy directory markets, bringing it into head-on conflict with Yell and, in particular, Thomson Directories. Says Pierre Danon, chief executive of BT Retail: “By entering the market we will by definition challenge all the classified businesses in the UK, but we are really going to challenge Thomson.”

The Scoot name will probably survive for the online classified business but not for BT’s printed directories.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff