Orascom Ends Brazil M&A Talks
The company, which put in an offer for Brazil's third largest fixed-line carrier in March, says in a one-paragraph statement that it's "no longer pursuing discussion" to acquire Telecom Italia's stake. (See Orascom Ends Brazil Talks.)
Orascom chairman and CEO Naguib Sawiris had indicated in a recent Bloomberg interview that the asking price had become too high and he was losing patience for a deal.
The statement notes that Orascom will continue to pursue acquisitions in "emerging countries offering large markets with untapped demand and high growth potential," but with assets in emerging markets becoming more expensive, Sawiris has also turned his attention to Europe.
Through his Weather Investments holding company, Sawiris has put in an offer for the remaining stake in Tellas SA , a Greek fixed-line operator in which it holds 50 percent plus one share. The plan is to combine Tellas with Greek mobile operator ÔIM Hellas Telecommunications S.A. , which it acquired in February along with subsidiary Q-Telecom. (See Weather Buys TIM Hellas.)
The Tellas stake is held by the state-controlled utility, Public Power Corporation (PPC), and Sawiris claims negotiations have been held up by political concerns. He has said that if the deal falls through, he will pursue alternative ways to acquire broadband operations in Greece, which has the lowest penetration in Europe.
Sawiris has also told reporters he's considering takeover bids for French operator Bouygues Telecom and Tiscali SpA (Milan: TIS), Europe's third largest Internet service provider. An IPO in Europe is planned for Weather Investments by early 2008, which should raise more cash for acquisitions.
Burned by rapid expansion in Africa a few years ago that racked up its debt, Orascom has sold most of its holdings there, but now it's in discussions with unnamed partners to set up a pan-African operator that would incorporate its operations in Zimbabwe. In the Middle East, the company lost out on a bid for Saudi Arabia's third mobile license and is participating in Qatar's auction for a second mobile license.
Orascom has $5 billion to spend on investments abroad as it seeks to expand out of the smaller countries in the Middle East and reach 100 million subscribers -- a goal it expects to meet by the end of next year. The company had 56.6 million customers in seven countries across the Middle East and North Africa at the end of the first quarter.
— Nicole Willing, Reporter, Light Reading