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Sawiris extends European presence

Orascom tightens its grip on Greek market.

Egyptian magnate Naguib Sawiris has acquired Greek cellco TIM Hellas for US$4.4 billion.

The news came after a raft of speculative reports claimed Sawiris-backed consortium Weather Investments was on the verge of closing a deal with Greece's third largest mobile operator.

The deal will include TIM Hellas' subsidiary Q-Telecom, Greece's fourth largest cellco. In January 2006 UK-based investment firm Apax and Texas Pacific Group acquired Q-Telecom for US$466 million, having earlier shelled out US$2 billion for TIM Hellas in June 2005. The price paid for TIM Hellas is inclusive of US$651 million equity along with US$3.7 billion of net debt at end of year 2006.

The deal marks Sawiris' second foray into Europe and second investment in the Greek telecoms market. In 2005 Weather acquired Italy's third-largest mobile operator Wind, for US$15.1 billion. This deal gave Sawiris a foothold in Greece as Wind has a 50% share in Tellas, one of the country's fixed-line and internet service providers.

"We expect to create significant value for the group by adding TIM Hellas to our portfolio and by further building on group wide synergies at all levels," said Sawiris.

Orascom operates GSM networks in Algeria (OTA), Pakistan (Mobilink), Egypt (Mobinil), Tunisia (Tunisiana), Iraq (Iraqna), Bangladesh (Banglalink), and Zimbabwe (Telecel Zimbabwe). The operator had over 50 million subscribers as at December 2006, and owns 19.3% of Hutchison, a services provider operating in eight countries.

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