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Sawiris plans offer for Tellas

Offer buy the rest of Greece's second-largest telecom company will come within the next two weeks, says Egyptian billionaire.

Egyptian billionaire and Orascom Telecom chairman Naguib Sawiris said he will offer within the next two weeks to buy the rest of Greece's second-largest telecom company, Tellas.

Sawiris' Weather Investments Spa is in talks with Greek utility Public Power Corp. (PPC) about buying its stake in Tellas, Sawiris told Reuters on Saturday on the sidelines of an economic conference in Jordan.

Weather owns 50% and one share of Tellas, as well as Greece's third-largest telecom company, TIM Hellas.

"We are currently planning to prepare an offer," Sawiris said of PPC's Tellas stake. "We have to come to a price which is fair," he said, declining to give a figure. He said the offer would be made in "maybe two weeks maximum."

If the acquisition is agreed, he plans to combine TIM Hellas and Tellas, and then expand their fixed-line and broadband services, and possibly make further acquisitions.

"We intend to put them under one roof," he said. Greece has the "lowest broadband penetration in western Europe... we could buy a cable company, a fibre optic company; we could buy some of the ISPs." An ISP is an internet service provider.

Weather could save costs by using the same equipment providers - Alcatel, Nokia and Ericsson - as Orascom and Weather Italian unit, Wind, Sawiris said.

In Italy, Sawiris said he had held no talks with broadband operator Tiscali about buying the company.

"We were never in talks," he said. "If they are for sale, they need to approach us and we will look at it."


In South Africa, Sawiris ruled out his Orascom bidding to buy South Africa's Cell C because the company was too small.

"We are not interested, not as a third player," he said. "When you miss your chance to become really dominant, it's very hard to come back."

He said he was more interested "if Vodafone was for sale or MTN Ltd. was for sale, but we will not be interested in all their footprint but only in large, populated markets." Vodafone jointly owns South Africa's Vodacom.

Sawiris said he was in discussions with unidentified partners about setting up a pan-African operator to which Orascom could contribute its Zimbabwe assets.

"There are discussions now to create a pan-African player to which we can contribute our assets," Sawiris said. He said he did not want to be in Africa as Orascom. The continent "needs someone who's patient and it's very long term," he said.

In South America, Orascom has made a "serious" offer for a stake in TIM Participacoes (TIM Brasil), which is owned by Telecom Italia. TIM Brasil is the South American country's second-largest mobile phone operator.

"We've made them a quite serious, attractive offer," he said. Talks were still going on and would conclude in the next few weeks, he said, without being more specific.

Brazil has a large "population and the penetration is low, and the fact that consolidation has not taken place yet ... we will start from there to see what else we can do," Sawiris said.

In Asia, Sawiris ruled out acquisitions in India after losing to Vodafone in bidding for a stake in Hutchison Essar.

"We are not interested anymore to get into the Indian market because of our experience with the Hutchison Essar story," Sawiris said, declining to be more specific.

Asked if he planned to raise his stake in Essar parent company, Hong Kong-based Hutchison Telecommunications International, Sawiris said: "No."

He said he would be interested in buying Hutchison assets in Vietnam and Indonesia because of "population and growth of penetration."

"If they are going to be sold, we will bid like anybody else," he said.

With dividends from its 19% stake in Hutchison, profit at Orascom will rise to more than $1 billion, Sawiris said.