Wind Mobile has its crosshairs set on an unoccupied throne: Canada’s fourth national wireless carrier. But is Canada really where Wind is most loyal?
Wind chairman Anthony Lacavera successfully wrangled financing from a telecom-savvy billionaire – but Naguib Sawiris is Egypitan. The operator of international carrier Orascom Telecom owns a majority stake in our Canadian startup.
For now, at least. He’s actually in the process of selling a large portion of his stake – to yet another foreign company. Russia’s VimpelCom will buyout much of Wind from Naguib, who will retain 20 percent of Wind once the deal is completed next year.
All these foreign affairs bring to light just how un-Canadian Wind Mobile is. But Anthony states firmly that the foreign-to-foreign sale is a checkpoint for the wireless startup.
“It’s a big positive,” he told Canadian Business recently, suggesting Wind will have “a great deal more financial strength,” considering that Naguib’s operations are burdended by roughly $15 billion in debt, with this forthcoming merge set to lighten the load.
The deal actually puts Wind in a good position to acquire fellow startups Public Mobile and Moblicity, though Anthony adamantly expresses that this route has not been discussed (yet).
The real question, of course, is just how committed VimpelComp actually is. And the answer may just be, “not very.” Company executives have stated they plan to sell “non-core” assets, with Wind Mobile quite possibly falling under this category. What may prevent this is strict regulations, both foreign and domestic, such as that Rogers, Bell, and Telus can’t purchase any of the Canadian startups before 2014.
Wind added 100,000 subscribers in its first six months, for a pace of 600,000 after three years. Its goal is 1,500,000 after three years, in order to compete with the Big Three oligopoly. But Anthony says that Wind’s pace will quicken.
The key, he believes, is for Wind to demonstrate why Canada is a great place to invest.
It will be interesting to see where – both literally and figuratively – Wind blows next.