ORASCOM SCORES GREEK OPERATORS IN US$4.4 BILLION DEAL

Mergers, Acquisitions and Financial Results

The Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris agreed Wednesday to buy TIM Hellas Telecommunications from two buyout firms in a deal that valued the Greek cellphone company at about €3.4 billion and extended his reach in Europe.

Sawiris, through his holding company, Weather Investments, will pay €500 million, or $650 million, and take on €2.9 billion in debt. Apax Partners Worldwide and Texas Pacific Group, which bought TIM Hellas two years ago for €1.4 billion, announced the sale in an e-mailed statement.

The 3.7 million Greek subscribers will expand Sawiris' investments beyond the Italian phone company, Wind, and Orascom Telecom Holding of Egypt. The two buyout firms are selling after they stopped a slide in sales at TIM Hellas and bought a rival operator, Q-Telecom, which had lured clients away with cheaper calls.

Sawiris described the acquisition as a significant step toward putting Weather Investments, the telecommunications investment company that is 97 percent owned by the Sawiris family, at the forefront of the European market.

"This is the second asset to be bought by Weather in the Mediterranean, and it is an important step in positioning Weather as a main player in Europe," Sawiris said.

Weather Investments bought Wind for €4.8 billion in 2005 from the power company Enel. Sawiris is chairman of Orascom, one of the largest telecommunications operators in the Middle East.

TIM Hellas is one of the top three Greek cellphone operators, which also include Cosmote, the mobile unit of Hellenic Telecommunications Organization, and Panafon, the local arm of Vodafone Group.

Sawiris said he was still interested in the Italian assets of the Internet service provider Tiscali, should an opportunity come up.

Bloomberg News