ECONOMY

OTE goes e-commerce shopping

Telecom company Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE) yesterday took a 50-percent share in information technology and Internet services company Multicom, a subsidiary of energy group Copelouzos, for 725 million drachmas. The move underscores OTE’s strategy of branching out into other sectors as competition heats up in the principal telecommunications business. OTE must ally with other market players in order to survive, company Managing Director Nikos Manasis told a press conference. This could involve alliances, takeovers or equity stakes. He said the strategy is also essential to ensure other sources of revenues for the company, especially with the entrant of new competitors to the telecommunications industry which was deregulated at the beginning of the year. Set up last year, Multicom has created an e-commerce website called wiz.gr and is currently developing a website called Multi-utility to sell natural gas, electricity and telecommunication services to corporate clients in the initial stage and subsequently also retail customers. The latter will have a common billing system which will tally customers’ utility bills into one single statement. The website will offer customers a choice of telecoms or energy provider. Multicom plans to sweeten the offer with discounts to customers. It is expected to commence operations next year. The proposed Multi-utility website could work to OTE’s advantage especially as it plans to offer a single telephony tariff nationwide in the near future, said Savvas Simatos, telecoms analyst at Eurosec. While online transactions and payments have been slow to take off in Greece, the method could gain ground in a couple of years, he said. Referring to the prospects for e-commerce in Greece, Copelouzos Managing Director Dimitrios Copelouzos said that revenues from this sector this year are estimated at $20 million. The figure is projected to rise to $475 million by 2004. Multicom will be OTE’s second venture into e-commerce. Last year it collaborated with its mobile phone subsidiary CosmOTE, Citibank and Diinekis Information to set up CosmoONE Hellas.