Twenty-two years after its founding, with 434 outlets for mobile telephony products and services in Greece and elsewhere in Europe, the Germanos group is now active in a geographical area that contains 100 million people. The expansion plan, says the group’s general manager, Dimitris Lolis, in an interview with Kathimerini, envisages the creation of 700 shops by 2003. The immediate target is Poland, where more than 90 shops are already in operation and are expected to reach 200 by the end of the year. Expansion plans include the southeastern Mediterranean. How far has the recession in the information technology products market in Greece affected the Germanos group? Undoubtedly, the recession has affected the sector but not our plans, as the cornerstone of our activities is the mobile telephone market. Of course, we are monitoring developments in the IT market and do not rule out selective investments in this sector if the opportunities arise. Has the maturation of the mobile telephone market not had an impact on the group’s revenues? How do you deal with the present situation? The mobile telephone market has grown at a fast pace in recent years, bringing the penetration rate to 70 percent – a clear indication of maturation. The mobile telephone is now a mass product. However, this maturation does not necessarily mean exhaustion of growth margins. Rapid technological developments in the sector, combined with the growing deregulation of the telecoms market, are expected to give a new growth boost. The main direction of technological developments is toward a convergence of mobile telephony and information technology, offering new flexible services and applications. The coming of mobile Internet will turn the mobile phone into a terminal with multiple possibilities and roles. It will have the capacity for handling a wealth of data, including economic transactions, but also for providing news and entertainment material in the form of text, image, sound and video. But such possibilities require advanced technology phones. According to manufacturers’ estimates, nearly 50 percent of sales concern the replacement of older models and the trend is upward. How large a market share does Germanos have today? With the commercial agreements we have signed with two of the three mobile phone operators in Greece (Telestet and Cosmote), we now have a 35-percent market share in new connections. What are the immediate expansion plans you are working on at present? What markets in Europe and southeastern Mediterranean are you targeting for immediate expansion and which are part of your medium-term goals? Our immediate plans are to strengthen our activities in Greece and abroad, with a view to consolidating a leading position in each of the national markets we have entered and establishing ourselves as the largest Greek retail network in Europe. We will place particular emphasis on our growth in Poland where we are targeting 200 shops within 2002, as well as on the completion of our investment plans in Romania, Bulgaria and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM). But we are also looking forward to expanding into other markets in central Europe and the southeastern Mediterranean. How many outlets does the group have outside Greece today and how many are you projecting by the end of 2003? We already have a strong presence abroad and our methodical expansion moves are based on tapping opportunities and understanding the particularities of the local markets. We have 177 outlets abroad, of which 94 are in Poland (after the acquisitions of the chains EKO Contel and TCM), 41 in Romania, 28 in Bulgaria, 12 in Cyprus and two in FYROM. The selection of the particular countries is made according to criteria based on the low degree of penetration of mobile telephony and Internet and the respective growth margins in these markets. Poland, for instance, is a country with 38 million people where the degree of penetration of mobile telephony is no more than 23 percent. This is a comparative advantage as in neighboring countries the respective rates are more than 40 and 50 percent. Our expansion plan is in full swing and envisages a total of 700 shops by the end of 2003.