Sawiris still eyes Telecom Italia

Egyptian billionaire confirms continuing interest amid Telefonica withdrawal rumours

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Sawiris still eyes Telecom Italia Sawiris: I would be ready to invest $1bn to $2bn. (Getty Images)
By  Stephen McBride Published  April 14, 2014

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris confirmed he is still open to the acquisition of shares in Telecom Italia (TI), and that he may invest up to $2bn if Spanish telco Telefonica were to withdraw its investment in the company.

Sawiris is the former owner of TI’s domestic rival Wind Telecomunicazioni and also was executive chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding. Rome-based TI provides fixed-line, mobile and DSL services.

Telefonica is part of a consortium with three Italian financial institutions, which controls 22.4% of Telecom Italia through holding company Telco. But its partners have hinted at a break up of Telco and that they may look to jettison their stakes in TI.

In December 2012 TI turned down a EUR3bn ($3.91bn, at December 2012 exchange rate) investment offer from Sawiris, who approached the Italian operator with a turnaround plan. At that time the Italian government opted for the rival bid from Telefonica. But the Spanish operator is also a direct rival of Telecom Italia in the Brazilian market, a conflict that Sawiris has criticised.

Sources close to Telefonica have reportedly claimed that the group is considering the break-up of TI’s Brazilian unit TIM Brasil. The Spanish telco would then share TIM Brasil’s assets with other telecom companies. According to other reports, Brazil’s competition regulator has imposed a mid-2015 deadline on Telefonica to downsize its presence in the South American country, leading to speculation that it may be willing to cash in its stake in TI.

In a recent interview, Sawiris indicated that he was still interested in taking a stake if Telefonica were to withdraw.

“In the past I made my calculations and put forward a proposal,” Sawiris told newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore.

“I think I would reiterate that. I would be ready to invest $1bn to $2bn. I am waiting until Telefonica makes a decision. I will be patient for a few months more.”

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