Scene set for telecom bidding war

Telecommunications company Forthnet has offered to buy Wind Hellas in a deal that could value the indebted Greek mobile phone group at about 2 billion euros, opening up the prospect of a bidding war. Wind Hellas, which owes lenders 3.2 billion euros, needs to strike a restructuring deal and bring in new investment ahead of an October 15 bond interest payment, and has been in talks with lenders and potential buyers since August. «It is imperative that a transaction is completed on an expedited basis if value is to be preserved,» Wind Hellas’s parent company said in a separate statement yesterday. The company said it had received a number of nonbinding offers from strategic and financial investors and expected final bids by mid-October. Forthnet, Greece’s second-largest Internet provider, said in a bourse filing its bid was also nonbinding. «Forthnet highlights that the submission of a nonbinding offer does not imply that it will be accepted,» it said in a statement. Wind Hellas, via its parent Hellas Telecommunications II, is a subsidiary of Italian holding company Weather Investments. Weather, majority-owned by Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, runs a number of telecoms firms in Europe, North Africa and Asia. Weather Investments may offer to invest more money into Wind Hellas, a source with knowledge of the situation said. Private equity house Apax Partners, which once owned Wind Hellas with its rival TPG, owns a 10 percent stake in Weather and has been keeping a close eye on the business. But it will not make an offer on its own, the source said. Apax declined to comment. Wind Hellas’s finances have been squeezed by falling revenues and pressure on liquidity. It is seeking a substantial equity injection, which is likely to amount to hundreds of millions of euros, alongside a restructuring deal with creditors, a second source said.