Naguib Sawiris, the Egytian-born chairman of Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, invested in Wind Mobile’s parent company Globalive during the spectrum auction. Orascom has 120 million customers worldwide. Wind Mobile has 120 thousand since launching xxx. With numbers like that, perhaps we should listen to Sawiris’ views on Wind Mobile’s future, and doing business in the Canadian Telecomm market.
Orascom has provided cellular service to some very challenging environments: war zone, low-income, long distance from basic services. They set up cell phone service in Iraq in 2003. They’ve partnered to provide cell phones in North Korea. Yet he says Canada has a worse investment climate than the usual places he goes, such as Bangladesh where a mobile phone runs $2.50 a month. Sawiris said the three largest telecom players in Canada, Rogers, Bell, and TELUS, are “a joke.” He has no interest in investing there as they are “too big, too slow.”
“I have been offered by two of them to buy me out at a very significant profit. But that means I’m a broker, not an industrialist. It’s against my saga, against my history. I’m not the kind of guy who goes out for the money. It’s about success. And this, I would consider it as a bribe.”
Visiting Wind Mobile, Sawiris predicted that eventually wireless competitors Mobilicity and Public Mobile would have no choice but to merge with Wind, and Wind in turn would become a fourth big player in Canadian telecom. “They will be dead on arrival. Wind should be the consolidator of all the smaller players here. We are going to be open to that. We are not interested in smaller players that are only coming with cash, or the licenses they paid cash for. We want them to succeed and have some subscribers. Because we can’t do the job alone.”
Sawiris owns all of Wind Mobile’s debt and 65% of its total equity. He plans to step up his investments in Wind as the Canadian government decides how to deal with foreign ownership of their telecom providers. In the interim, both Rogers and Bell have lowered their prices in the regions where Wind Mobile competes.
Long-term, he expects global consolidation to result in 5-6 large providers, and he is positioning Orascom to become one of them.