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Egyptian telecoms entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris has agreed to buy Greece’s third-largest mobile operator in a deal worth €3.4bn ($4.4bn).

Weather Investments, the acquisitive Mr Sawiris’ investment vehicle, bought Tim Hellas from Texas Pacific Group and Apax, the private equity firms that bought the mobile company in 2005 for €1.36bn.

The deal between Weather and the private equity firms would give Tim Hellas an enterprise value of €3.4bn, said people familiar with the situation.

The Greek foray represents Mr Sawiris’ second move into the European telecoms assets. Weather bought Wind, Italy’s third-largest mobile operator, in a 2005 deal worth €12.2bn.

Orascom Telecom, which is controlled by Weather, runs mobile networks in emerging markets in Africa, Asia and the Middle East.

Weather’s purchase of Tim Hellas gives it the opportunity to create a bigger telecoms presence in Greece, where Wind also has a 50 per cent stake in Tellas, one of the country’s internet and fixed-line phone providers.

TPG and Apax purchased a controlling stake in Tim Hellas in April 2005, and then bought out minority shareholders.

The private equity firms paid a total of €1.36bn. They subsequently bought Q-Telecom, Greece’s fourth-largest mobile operator, in a deal worth €320m. Q-Telecom is thought to form part of Weather’s purchase.

TPG and Apax abandoned an auction of Tim Hellas in December last year after prospective bidders failed to meet their reserve price.

Turkcell, Turkey’s leading mobile operator, Providence Equity, the US private equity firm, and Etisalat, United Arab Emirates-based telecoms group, examined Tim Hellas. The highest bid was thought to be €3.2bn.

After buying Tim Hellas, TPG and Apax undertook a refinancing of the mobile operator that repaid them their original equity investment.

A second refinancing accomplished after the auction of Tim Hellas was abandoned is expected to result in TPG and Apax recouping close to three times the original equity investment.

Orascom has a minority stake in Hutchison Telecommunications International. Hutchison Whampoa, which controls Hutchison Telecom, is considering selling its stake in Hutchison Essar, India’s fourth largest mobile operator.

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