UK-backed Vodafone Greece and its local rival, private equity-owned Wind Hellas, remain in talks on a potential merger first revealed in August. Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Group’s CEO, said yesterday that the parties are ‘trying to get to an agreement’ that benefits all shareholders and the country’s economy. Wind Hellas is the smallest of three mobile network operators in Greece but also has well-established fixed voice and broadband operations, while Vodafone Greece is present in the fixed/broadband segment via a minority share and strategic partnership with Hellas Online. A merger with Wind Hellas would require clearance from the European Union as well as local regulatory and anti-monopoly authorities as it would create a company with over 50% mobile subscriber market share, ahead of current leader Cosmote.
Vodafone took a GBP450 million (USD723 million) write-down on its Greek operations in the first half of its 2011/12 fiscal year (April-September), following a GBP800 million charge in the same period a year ago. However, Colao said Spain was proving a more serious drag on the group, given pressure on pricing there and the need for restructuring.