ECONOMY

Sawiris bids to keep control of Wind

Egyptian telecoms tycoon Naguib Sawiris said yesterday he had put in a binding bid for Wind Hellas in an effort to keep control of the indebted Greek telecoms operator. Sawiris currently owns the ailing Greek firm through Weather Investments, which also owns another Wind-branded company in Italy and just over half of Cairo-based Orascom Telecom. Cash-strapped Wind Hellas, stung by a price war with rivals Cosmote and Vodafone and hit by the Greek economic crisis, was put up for sale in July after it started its second debt-restructuring talks within a year to avoid missing debt payments – forcing Sawiris to lodge a bid for the company to hold onto it. The bid from Sawiris includes a fresh cash injection and a partial debt-for-equity swap with creditors, giving up some of their claims in exchange for shares in a restructured company, he told Bloomberg. A group of senior bondholders in the third-biggest Greek mobile phone company is also seeking control of the company, local press reported. «The business needs cash,» Sawiris said, declining to give details on his offer. «We know the company very well and we know the Greek market inside out.» Although Sawiris bought Wind Hellas out of bankruptcy less than 12 months ago, it’s now under the control of creditors after the company deferred a 17.5-million-euro interest payment on its 250-million-euro revolving credit facility in June. It also missed a 23-million-euro coupon payment on its 1.2 billion euros of floating-rate notes. «It will be the bondholders who decide what’s best for the company and its creditors,» Sawiris said. Weather’s latest bid will pit Sawiris against some of the company’s creditors, which have also put in a binding offer for the company and are open to proposals from outside bidders, people close to the matter said. The deadline for binding offers was September 15 and a preferred bidder is expected to be chosen by October 14. Other rival telecoms groups have been circling Wind Hellas in recent weeks, with bankers saying that Norway’s Telenor had «serious ambitions» concerning Wind Hellas.