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Sawiris Bids EU5 Billion for Telecom Italia Stake, Corriere Says

Orascom Telecom Founder Naguib Sawiris
Orascom Telecom Holding SAE founder Naguib Sawiris. Photographer: Simon Dawson/Bloomberg

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris offered as much as 5 billion euros ($6.4 billion) to purchase a stake in Telecom Italia SpA, Corriere della Sera reported today, without saying how it obtained the information.

Telecom Italia’s management board discussed the bid at a meeting on Nov. 8, the newspaper said. Sawiris, reached by phone, declined to comment. Telecom Italia officials didn’t return calls or e-mails.

Telecom Italia is considering a plan to spin off its fixed-line access network and will decide by the end of this year whether to proceed. Sawiris’s offer is for a stake in the entire company, Corriere said. The investment would fund growth at Italy’s largest phone company, the newspaper said.

Telecom Italia this week reported a 13 percent decline in net income to 681 million euros from 786 million euros a year earlier. The company is suffering as competition and the region’s sovereign debt crisis crimp sales and margins.

The shares gained 2 cents, or 3.7 percent, to close at 69 cents in Milan trading yesterday. The stock has dropped 17 percent this year, valuing the Milan-based company at 13 billion euros.

Sawiris, founder of Egypt’s Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, last year merged Italy’s Wind Telecom SpA with VimpelCom Ltd. Sawiris this year added gold to his investments after agreeing to buy Canada’s La Mancha Resources Inc. The Sawiris family also has interests in construction, fertilizer, cement, real estate and hotel development.

“Sawiris knows very well the Italian telecoms market as he’s owned Wind for many years,” said Alessandro Frigerio, a fund manager at RMJ Sgr in Milan. “He recently bought a web search engine, Libero, from Telecom Italia, so it seems he’s focusing more on web investments of a small size.”

Sawiris offered “slightly” more than 1 billion euros for Telefonica SA’s stake in Telco, the holding company that owns a controlling stake in Telecom Italia, an offer that was rebuffed by Chief Executive Officer Cesar Alierta, Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Oct. 16.

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