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Virgin Mobile to buy Helio for $39 million in equity

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It's official, MVNO lone survivor Virgin Mobile is picking up the struggling Helio from SK Telecom and Earthlink for a cool $39 million in Virgin Mobile USA stock. They expect the deal to close in Q3 2008, pending regulatory approval. The acquisition comes as no surprise, but it's still sad to see the one true innovator in a mostly doomed MVNO space fall to that pesky little "completely failing to make money" thing. The good news is that it while the Helio brand will be phased out, Virgin Mobile isn't just in this for the 170,000-ish subscribers it'll be picking up. They plan to leverage Helio's technology and content offerings, not to mention the willingness of its customers to pay a few extra bucks for the perks, to build the Virgin Mobile brand into new spaces -- spaces which hopefully prove profitable and Ocean 2-ey.

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