Vodafone and Wind prepare their counteroffer for Forthnet

By Vangelis Mandravelis

Vodafone and Wind Hellas appear to have countered rival OTE’s offer for the pay-TV operations of Forthnet (Nova). The two telecommunications networks are preparing to submit, or may have already submitted, a new offer for Forthnet in its entirety and not just its pay-TV arm, although neither of the two would officially confirm it on Wednesday.

Sources say that this new bid amounts to 500 million euros, including the borrowing debts of Athens-listed Forthnet, which add up to 330 million euros.

The issue will become clearer on Thursday with the anticipated intervention of the Capital Market Commission. It appears that Vodafone and Wind, which between them control 39.5 percent of Forthnet, did not submit a demand on Wednesday for a public offering for the buyout of the company, which added 12.5 percent to its stock price yesterday.

The onus is now on the Arab owners of Forgendo, which controls 44 percent of Forthnet. After receiving the joint offer from Vodafone and Wind, the Arabs will have to issue a response to OTE, which has tabled a bid for Nova worth between 250 and 300 million euros. It is said that the Arabs have delayed their response in anticipation of the Vodafone-Wind offer.

The Arabs’ response will to a great extent determine the future of the Greek telecommunications sector. Everything points to Vodafone and Wind creating an archrival to OTE, and the question is what weapons they will use against the market’s dominant player. A pay-TV platform would doubtlessly create a significant form of defense in the context of the telecom market’s declining revenues, while adding Forthnet’s 500,000-strong client base to Vodafone and Wind will certainly expand their economies of scale.