In an unexpected turn of events, the fate of Wind Mobile has become uncertain: Orascom Telecom Holding SAE — VimpelCom’s Egyptian subsidiary — has withdrawn its application to take over the struggling Canadian wireless startup, the Globe and Mail reports.
“Further to its prior announcements on the proposed acquisition of control of Wind Mobile Canada, Orascom Telecom Holding SAE announces that, after a review process and discussions with the Government of Canada, it has decided to withdraw its application for Investment Canada Act approval of its acquisition of control of Wind Mobile Canada,” Orascom said in a release.
But in an unexpected twist, the company added: “Orascom Telecom continues to be interested in consolidating its interest in Wind Mobile Canada and in working with the Government of Canada to achieve this goal.”
The announcement was followed up by a brief statement from Industry Minister Christian Paradis, but we couldn’t find any details about the possible roadblocks that ended the review process.
The Globe and Mail reported earlier, though, that VimpelCom’s bid for control — which should have taken up to six weeks — was delayed for more than eight months due to national security issues.
Orascom was the financial backer of Wind Mobile, the wireless player that has managed to grow its subscriber base to 600,000 users. The government relaxed foreign investment restrictions a year ago, and now allows 100% foreign control of wireless players retaining less than 10% of the market. With Orascom’s move Wind Mobile’s future becomes uncertain as it there is no official information about Vimpelcom to fund any additional spectrum purchases for Wind.
Anthony Lacavera has issued a statement today saying:
“As the founder and CEO of Wind Mobile, I have always been committed to creating a true independent wireless choice for Canadians. Despite today’s announcement, I will continue working with Vimpelcom toward achieving our mutual objectives.”
This sudden change in the Canadian wireless landscape just highlights the need for another powerful wireless player to step in and save both Ottawa’s ambitions for a fourth wireless player in each province, and consumers for finally getting real choices.