Naguib Sawiris, the Egyptian telecoms billionaire, has backed a fund management group formed by former Wind and Vimpelcom executives raising money to buy underperforming telecoms businesses in Europe.
Leading European institutional fund management groups have been approached to invest in the private equity fund in recent weeks, which will target smaller telecoms groups struggling in the tough economic conditions in many European markets, or that are being sold by larger but heavily indebted operators.
There have been recent signs of opportunistic corporate acquisitions in the telecoms market, with Carlos Slim’s América Móvil looking to raise its 7.3 per cent stake in KPN to 28 per cent in an offer to shareholders. Hutchison Whampoa tabled a €2bn bid for Eircom, the troubled Irish operator, while Telekom Austria has been at the centre of stake building by investment groups.
The fund will be managed by Accelero Capital, which is part-owned by Mr Sawiris and managed by the executives that worked with him on the turnround of Wind, the telecoms group, which was sold with other assets owned by Mr Sawiris’s Weather investment vehicle to Vimpelcom for $6.5bn in 2011. Accelero declined to comment. Mr Sawiris was not available for comment.
The management team has met with institutional investors in London to gauge interest. One person with knowledge of the process said it was expected that Mr Sawiris would inject some of his own capital into the fund, but the majority of the finance was to be raised externally. There is also expected to be other “anchor” investors in the fund.
The group is led by Khaled Bichara, former president and chief operating officer of Vimpelcom, and Aldo Mareuse, former financial officer of Orascom and Wind Telecom. They have been recently joined by Ossama Bessada, who left Vimpelcom as head of Europe and North America last month.
The fund aims to capitalise on the need by the largest telecoms incumbents to sell off non-core parts of their businesses as they seek to reduce their debts.
Telefónica, for example, has said it would consider disposals, including Latin American businesses and a part-flotation of its German operation, after having this week sold half its share in China Unicom for a fifth less than analyst estimates.
France Telecom has already pared back its business into core areas over recent years. According to those with knowledge of the fund’s strategy, Eircom could still be a potential target for the fund even after the recent debt restructuring that saw senior lenders take control.
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