US-based private equity firms Texas Pacific and Apax Partners have hired investment banks Morgan Stanley and Lehman Brothers to advise them on the sale of their 100% stakes in Greece’s third and fourth placed cellcos TIM Hellas and Q-Telecom, reports Greek newspaper Kathimerini. Egypt’s Orascom Telecom is seen as a likely bidder for the pair, as it has previously expressed interest in TIM Hellas, and could merge both with local fixed line operator Tellas, a joint venture between Greek electricity utility Public Power Corporation (PPC) and Italian operator Wind, itself part-owned by Orascom and its chairman Naguib Sawiris, to form a credible full service competitor to incumbent OTE. Q-Telecom already provides a full range of fixed telephony, internet access and mobile services.
Apax Partners and Texas Pacific paid Telecom Italia EUR1.1 billion in April 2005 for 80.9% of TIM Hellas, before acquiring all of the remaining shares for EUR263.5 million the following November. The equity houses agreed to buy Q-Telecom for EUR350 million from Info-Quest in October 2005 and completed the deal at the end of January 2006. A new sale is expected to kick off before the end of September 2006, according to sources close to the situation quoted by local press. Analysts have predicted potential bids as high as EUR3 billion.