Russia’s Sistema buys more Greek telecoms

The small size of the Greek market has probably been the main reason why it has traditionally attracted only meager interest from international business giants. But this seems to be changing, particularly in the banking and telecommunications sectors. Three days after revealing negotiations with Greek telecom companies, the Russian group Sistema yesterday announced it has agreed to acquire alternative service provider Hellas On Line (HOL) and Attica Telecommunications. Sistema, which already controls 51 percent of Intracom Telecom, will acquire the two Greek companies through its Comstar subsidiary. The deal provides that HOL will initially acquire Attica Telecommunications, which is today controlled by a consortium of four construction companies (Hellenic Technodomiki, J&P Avax, Pantechniki and Attikat) which operate the Attiki Odos highway. The firm owns a fiberoptic network. The price will be announced after the due diligence process, which is under way. After the acquisition, 51 percent of HOL will be transferred to Comstar, on the basis of an agreement initialed with Intracom Holdings. The construction companies have secured the right of participating in the new scheme under Comstar, through a share capital increase. Comstar is listed on the London Stock Exchange. In banking, HSBC has announced plans for expansion into the Balkans, including Greece; Citigroup is also expanding its Greek network, targeting the 100th branch soon. According to bank officials, the recent acquisition of Emporiki by France’s Credit Agricole is speeding up developments. Mortgage and consumer loans are seen as spearheading Emporiki’s counterattack to recapture flagging market shares.