Greek mobile, broadband and fixed line operator Wind Hellas will survive regardless of whether a proposed merger with rival Vodafone Greece goes ahead, Wind’s CEO Nassos Zarkalis stated yesterday. He was reacting to earlier comments from Michael Tsamaz, his counterpart at Greek incumbent telco OTE, who implied that if regulatory authorities did not approve the merger of Vodafone and Wind – the market’s second and third largest cellcos behind OTE’s Cosmote division – then it would result in an operator becoming bankrupt. As reported by ekathimerini.com, Mr Zarkalis pointed to new financial figures released by Wind showing that it achieved operating profits of EUR124 million (USD168 million) in the first nine months of 2011, with a predicted full-year operating profit above EUR150 million. ‘The figures show that the company can survive,’ the Wind chief said, adding that the private equity-owned telco also had a net cash inflow. However, the CEO admitted that ‘the best move for the market would be for the merger to proceed,’ adding that, in the long term, ‘the big groups will safeguard growth and jobs both in the cell phone market and other industries.’
A merger between Vodafone Greece and 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 approximately 50% mobile subscriber market share, forming a duopoly with current market leader Cosmote. A merger application is unlikely to be submitted to the European Commission until at least December, instead of October as originally planned, as negotiations continue between UK-based Vodafone Group and Wind’s private shareholders. Having been through bankruptcy last year, Wind Hellas was taken over by a consortium of its creditors, which formed a new holding company, Largo Ltd, in December 2010.