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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 20:02 GMT
Newbury backs a winner

Newbury was better known for its racecourse

Vodafone's phenomenal rise has practically turned the Berkshire market town of Newbury into a company property.

The joint headquarters of the merged group is under contruction just outside Newbury. Meanwhile its 3,000 employees are squeezed into every available spare office block nearby.

Vodafone occupies nearly 50 different addresses in the little town, previously best known for its racecourse and the controversy sparked by the construction of a bypass.

Some 30 buildings will be vacated when the headquarters moves out, but the economy has been thriving and town centre manager Tim Smith said there will be a queue of organisations waiting to move in.

"The opening of the bypass gave us our town centre back, and there will be no problem about filling office space when the new HQ is ready," he said.

Local people appear delighted with the move
The proposal to build the new HQ was tinged with controversy- countryside campaigners objected, but Vodafone threatened to quit Newbury and move to Reading or Swindon if it did not get its way.

In return for permission to construct the massive office block, West Berkshire council believes it has got clear commitments from the company that it will stay until at least 2020.

Town centre manager Tim Smith said the deal, which will put their local company in the top five of the world's corporations, came as a surprise.

"To be honest we were so involved in securing Vodafone in the town that the Mannesmann issue almost went unnoticed," he said.

People on the streets of Newbury were delighted with the decision, and the potential money it could bring into the town.

"I think everyone's really excited," said one woman. "We're completely over the moon, it's great. It seems to be something new all the time."

Workers' boost

One employee said: "This is such a booming industry , there is such scope for mobile communicationss in the future too."

But Vodafone AirTouch spokesperson Michelle Burgess said the deal will not automatically mean new jobs.

"The employment in Newbury will be the same, but there will be jobs created through normal growth," she said.

And she said there will be an immediate boost for workers.

"The company does operate a very good share scheme, and the share price has gone up so it will benefit them that way too," she said.

Vodafone has 146 jobs advertised in Newbury, where unemployment is below 1%.

'Good news'

David Pitchforth, a build controller who has worked for the company for six years, said:

"I think it's brilliant. It is going to push our company so far ahead of the game once we merge with Mannesmann. We will have coverage in 56 countries."

Kevin Taylor, head of marketing for small businesses, said: "I think it is tremendous news for Vodafone employees and customers, and it will bring a number of things to us.

"It will accelerate our capabilities in the data and internet area, and I think the merger really will be good news for the corporate customers and small businesses, many of whom trade and travel internationally.

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See also:
04 Feb 00 |  Business
Vodafone seals Mannesmann deal

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