Former WIND Backer: “Canada is Behaving Like a Third-World Country”


Egyptian telecom tycoon and former backer of WIND Mobile, Naguib Sawiris has lost interest in Canada and its wireless market after Ottawa has blocked his deal with Manitoba Telecom Services Inc.’s Allstream unit over unspecified national security concerns. From his perspective, Ottawa’s opaque telecom policy will also cast doubt over the future of wireless start-ups, WIND included.

“Canada is behaving like a third-world country. It is not behaving like a Western developed economy,” Sawiris said in an interview with Reuters on Wednesday.

Since Ottawa has successfully killed his last drop of interest in the Canadian telecom market, Sawiris will look to invest his money in other markets such as Egypt and Italy. As a former backer of WIND Mobile, he had a couple thoughts to share before closing the Canadian chapter. As far as he can see, WIND Mobile’s efforts to participate in the forthcoming 700MHz spectrum auction and to become a strong national player are pointless, as it would struggle to survive in the long term — not that the company wouldn’t be struggling now anyway.

The reasoning is pretty straightforward: The wireless player needs capital to survive, but Ottawa’s opaque policy has managed to scare off investors. A Wind spokesman downplayed these concerns saying, “The decision to participate in the 700MHz auction will be decided by the current shareholders of Wind Canada — Vimpelcom and AAL.”

“Canada’s not serious about having foreign direct investment and they are not serious about opening their telecom market,” Sawiris said. “It’s a waste of time, and investors like us we don’t have time to pay lawyers and accounting firms and do due diligence and block our capital for six, eight months.”

Furthermore, the government has clearly indicated that it doesn’t want incumbents to take over wireless start-ups. It didn’t allow a Vimpelcom takeover, because the company’s top investor is the Moscow-based Altimo.

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