Naguib Sawiris said he’s interested in Italian telecommunications assets including his former company Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA as the Egyptian billionaire seeks to re-enter the market.
Sawiris, looking for opportunities in the industry after his offer to buy a stake in Milan-based Telecom Italia SpA (TIT) for at least 2 billion euros ($2.6 billion) was rejected five months ago, said Italy is a “very good place to invest” and the options he’s considering include Wind.
“When we find a good opportunity we will come back for sure,” Sawiris, 58, said today in a phone interview. “I am very optimistic on Italy.”
Sawiris’s return to Italy would mark a comeback for a businessman who helped shape the country’s phone industry. Sawiris ventured into Italy in 2005, when he bought Wind, the country’s third-largest mobile-phone provider, in a 12.2 billion-euro deal from utility company Enel SpA. (ENEL) He sold it to VimpelCom Ltd. (VIP) in 2011. Under Sawiris, Wind reached 20 million wireless subscribers in 2010 and became Italy’s second-biggest fixed-line company.
Wind’s revenue fell 2.6 percent to 5.43 billion euros in 2012, according to the company’s annual report. Mobile customers increased to 21.6 million from 21 million and Wind had a net loss of 124 million euros in the period. Net financial debt was 9.15 billion euros at the end of last year.
Wind announced last month that it will spend 1 billion euros in the coming five years on a high-speed mobile network. Rome-based Wind has hired Shenzhen, China-based Huawei Technologies Co. and Milan-based Sirti SpA to supply equipment and infrastructure services for the network.
Sawiris said a potential combination of Telecom Italia SpA and Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. (13)’s Italian business wouldn’t be successful because the two carriers have different cultures and business models. Telecom Italia, Italy’s biggest phone company, said last month it’s examining a possible merger with Hutchison’s H3G unit.
To contact the reporter on this story: Daniele Lepido in Milan at email@example.com