Savoy goes e-wards

Investment company Savoy Equities has entered the e-market by founding a subsidiary company devoted to wireless development.

Investment company Savoy Equities has entered the electronic market in earnest by founding a subsidiary company devoted to wireless development, eSavoy.

eSavoy will pursue investment opportunities specifically in the mobile-Internet and wireless WAN fields. Previously Savoy concentrated on property investments.

eSavoy is essentially a rebranding of a unit called Savoy Technologies, which has been exploring these and similar fields for two years. Its activity was chiefly in market research, says executive chairman Kerry Haycock, though a few investments were made and subsequently sold off.

Now with new investment opportunities presenting themselves and the previous investigations maturing, “everything has come together” for a venture into practical investment, he says.

Initially eSavoy has invested in two New Zealand companies, E-Zebra and IPfinity, and Shanghai-based JeTronic.

E-Zebra is dedicated to mobile Internet, and sees its primary market in “lifestyle” content directed at the 15-25-year-old market; the so-called Generation Y.

These people see the Internet in a different way, says eSavoy CEO Layne Skelton. They would often rather send a text message than talk on the phone. They see Web sites as “three-dimensional” structures of interlinked information, rather than just sequences of flat pages, as many adults view them, he suggests. These different attitudes require different marketing, he says.

E-Zebra was working on a development in the short message service (SMS) field in collaboration with Ericsson, but found it difficult to take to market because of perceived conflict with existing Ericsson products, says Haycock. A new owner was seen as a way forward.

IPfinity – formerly SafetyNet – specialises in wireless links for carrier-grade networks, and sees itself in the business-to-business market among the telcos.

Jetronic develops wireless-enabled Internet applications, including information service Jetinfo and Stockjet for stock trading. These products currently have two million users in China. eSavoy has taken a majority investment (51%) in this company and sees it as a foothold in China, which may, in due course, benefit the other companies eSavoy owns. The company has taken 70% of IPfinity and 75% of E-Zebra.

Another Savoy Equities subsidiary, Counterpoint Technolgies, registered earlier this year as a potential bidder in the 2GHz spectrum auction, but the current activities are unrelated to that, Haycock says.

That market has moved on beyond opportunities for small independent entrants, he says, and eSavoy will prefer to work with the major companies that will probably dominate the spectrum.

Skelton and Haycock decline to put a figure on the investments made to date. There will clearly be further investments down the line for the already-owned companies, and maybe the acquisition of more, they say, but emphasis will be on the first three for the time being.

Skelton was formerly e-business project director at Gen-i. Haycock is chief executive of Savoy Equities.

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