ECONOMY

Germanos looking for a new foothold in telecoms

According to sources, businessman Panos Germanos is looking for a new foothold in Greek telecoms following the end of a five-year legal agreement not to enter the market — one of the conditions he signed on to when he sold Germanos SA to Cosmote in April 2006 — with rumors suggesting that his sights are set on Wind Hellas.

According to market officials, Germanos is planning to make his comeback in the Greek telecoms market with an independent mobile telephony services network, with Wind Hellas being strongly rumored as being the one that will make it possible. However, the officials also say that Germanos?s ultimate goal is to take over Wind Hellas, given the intention of the company?s current shareholders to pull out.

Negotiations between Germanos and Wind Hellas are rumored to have started a few months ago, as the latter?s shareholders are open to any attractive offers that could help them shed the investment after talks with Vodafone last summer to this end fell through.

A deal between Germanos and Anchorage Capital Group — which holds a majority stake in Wind Hellas — remains very much up in the air given the negative economic climate in Greece. The latter, meanwhile, is maintaining its valuations at low levels, making sellers reluctant to sell their assets at a low price and buyers to spend significant sums.

When the American investors acquired Wind Hellas in December 2010 they put 420 million euros into the company and paid off revolving credit worth 350 million euros. Therefore, the new collaboration, if it transpires, is expected to begin with the takeover of Wind Hellas?s distribution network by Germanos.

A deal of this caliber is expected to lead to a shake-up of the Greek telecoms sector, as Germanos has adequate liquidity to put him in third place in the market, as well as ample know-how in telecom operations.

Much of this know-how was gained via his majority participation (through his company Tollerton Investments Ltd) in Play in Poland, which became the fourth-biggest player in the Eastern European country?s mobile phone market, with more than 7 million customers, or double the number that Wind Hellas has today.

A few months ago the Greek businessman also expressed an interest in Bulgaria?s BTC but eventually pulled out along with the other three interested parties as the bank holding the company?s debts deemed their offers too low.