Mobile communications specialist 02 intends to franchise a quarter of its company owned stores over the next nine months.

There are 450 shops at present, of which 120 are already run by franchisees. 02 aims to offer another 82 to entrepreneurs, bringing the number of franchised branches to about 200.

02 general manager, retail, Crispin Lowery said that the shift would enable the business to carry on developing a high street presence while enabling the company to invest the capital released in a variety of aspects of its operations.

Lowery said that no jobs will be lost as a result of the change and existing store teams would transfer to the new owners.

He said: “Our experience shows that franchise stores deliver for our business, our people and our customers.

“The local market knowledge of a franchisee – typically entrepreneurs who are well connected with the local business community – can make a huge difference in creating a successful store.”

He said that 02 will continue to run a network of company-owned shops which will not diminish in importance. Lowery said: “We believe our retail estate is a vital part of our success. I don’t see a time when franchises will be the most significant part of our retail business.”