Josh Halliday 

Tesco buys We7 for £10.8m

Retail giant moves further into home entertainment by acquiring digital music service. By Josh Halliday
  
  

Tesco has bought the digital music service We7 for £10.8m as the retail giant moves further into home entertainment.

The supermarket company has taken a 91% stake in London-based We7, with the remaining shares to be purchased within weeks.

Genesis frontman Peter Gabriel is expected to make a £2m windfall from the deal from his We7 stake. He founded the "digital jukebox" with Steve Purdham, the chief executive, in 2007.

Purdham said the deal was a "great outcome" for the company and a boon for UK technology companies.

Tesco's purchase of We7 comes as the supermarket moves increasingly into digital entertainment, after its acquisition of the online movie rentals firm Blinkbox in April last year.

We7 boasts a catalogue of 11m music tracks and is available on iPad, iPhone and Android apps and on the web. The company has never turned a profit, but Purdham said in February in a MediaGuardian interview that the firm was close to making money. We7 tripled its annual turnover in 2010 and reduced losses to just under £3m.

Purdham said on Thursday that the deal made sense for both We7 and Tesco.

He told the Guardian: "Initially it's business as usual but given what they've got there's great opportunities; the real one is access to their wealth of consumers and marketing."

Tesco is expected to attempt to tie the We7 technology into its existing digital products, targeting customers who want to listen to online music on the move.

Purdham, a serial entrepreneur who sold an internet security firm for $415m (£267m) at the height of the dotcom boom, shied away from describing We7 as a British techonology success story.

However, he said the sale should prove an inspiration for London's so-called "Silicon Roundabout" cluster of internet startups.

"Building a technology startup is always a difficult thing but it's the persistence there and the ability to create value," he said. "It's just another example of how good UK tech can be. There are good people like Tesco out there that look for innovation and new ways of doing things."

Mark George, the digital director at Tesco, said in a statement: "Customers and technology together are transforming the way we listen to music.

"Tesco is already one of the UK's largest retailers of CDs; this move will help us offer a greater choice for the growing number of customers who want to access music instantly on any device, whenever and wherever they want. We7 has a great team and a good technology platform from which we can launch a range of digital music services in the future."

• To contact the MediaGuardian news desk email editor@mediaguardian.co.uk or phone 020 3353 3857. For all other inquiries please call the main Guardian switchboard on 020 3353 2000. If you are writing a comment for publication, please mark clearly "for publication".

• To get the latest media news to your desktop or mobile, follow MediaGuardian on Twitter and Facebook