ECONOMY

Egyptian interest in TIM

DUBAI (Reuters) – Egyptian businessman Naguib Sawiris said yesterday he was considering a bid for Greece’s third-largest mobile operator, TIM Hellas, through an investment unit he has used to make other acquisitions. Sawiris, chief executive of Egypt-based Orascom Telecom, would not say how much he would offer for TIM Hellas, which has about 2.3 million customers in Greece, or 19 percent of one of Europe’s most saturated mobile phone markets. «We are interested in a bid (for TIM Hellas). But we have still not made up our minds on it. We certainly have not decided on a figure,” Sawiris said told Reuters in Dubai. TIM Hellas is controlled by private equity houses Apax and Texas Pacific and was delisted this month from the Amsterdam bourse. «We have not received any approach from potential buyers in the last months and we remain focused on adding value to the company,» a statement from Hellas’s management and shareholders said in Athens. Telecoms firms from the Arab world are expanding aggressively abroad as governments gradually open their tightly regulated domestic markets to competition. Sawiris is leading the pack, snapping up Italian wireless firm Wind this year for $15.3 billion in one of Europe’s biggest leveraged buyouts. The deal was worth more than the combined telecom acquisition spending this year in the Gulf Arab region. Orascom is also one of seven bidders for Telsim, Turkey’s second-largest mobile phone operator, and the contest will be decided at an auction on December 13. «I have to see the outcome of the Telsim bid first. It depends on how much we have to pay,» he said, adding that any bid would be made through Weather Investments, which was set up for the Wind acquisition. Although Greece has more mobile phone SIM cards than people, and four operators battling for margins and market share, analysts believe it could yield growth.