Private equity groups mull Weather stake

30 Aug 2007

Egyptian financier Naguib Sawiris has revealed he is in talks to sell as much as 20% of Weather Investments, the holding company that owns Wind Telecomunicazioni, to private equity funds. Blackstone Group, TPG, Ripplewood Holdings and Permira Advisers are all reported to be interested in buying a stake in Weather, Sawiris said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Last week Italian daily Il Sole-24 Ore reported that Blackstone could buy 20%-30% of Wind for between EUR1.5 billion (USD2.1 billion) and EUR2 billion. Sawiris denied that Blackstone, which vied with Weather to buy Wind from Enel in 2005, is better placed than rivals to buy the stake, saying he has only ‘one preference, which is the price.’ He plans to close the deal by the end of September.

Weather bought 63% of Wind, Italy’s third largest wireless company by subscribers, in 2005 for EUR3 billion and assumed about EUR7 billion of debt. Last year Weather purchased the remaining stake in Wind from Enel for EUR1.96 billion. In February, Weather bought Greek cellco TIM Hellas Telecommunications, in a deal that valued the Greek company at about EUR3.4 billion, including EUR2.9 billion in net debt. Weather also owns a majority stake in Orascom Telecom Holding, the largest mobile-phone company in the Middle East and north Africa.

Egypt, WINDTRE (incl. Wind and 3 Italia)