Tough Talk from Naguib Sawiris

by Jordan Richardson on September 2, 2010

Naguib Sawiris, executive chairman of Orascom and majority investor in WIND Mobile, wasted little time in talking some good old-fashioned trash about Canada’s telecommunications industry and the players in it. Seemingly buoyed by recent news of WIND’s 100,000 subscriber milestone, Sawiris was interviewed by the Globe and Mail and left little to the imagination.

Sawiris is well-known for making risky investments in dangerous parts of the world, but his successes reveal a shrewd businessman that knows more than most about the ins and outs of global telecommunications. “We go where people don’t dare to go,” he told the Globe and Mail. “We’re crazy, adventurous.”

Part of where “people don’t dare to go,” presumably, is Canada’s “backwater” telecommunications industry. Sawiris’ investment in WIND Mobile is what brought the new company to the fray in this country and it looks like the investment is ticking along just nicely, even as it has a few oligopoly-sized icebergs to crack through.

It hasn’t been easy to get things going, however, and Sawiris doesn’t mince words when it comes to Canada’s investment climate. Telling the Globe and Mail that he considers Canada to have one of the worst environments for investing out of all of the countries he deals in, Sawiris doesn’t seem to be afraid of speaking his mind.

With networks that serve 120 million subscribers worldwide, Sawiris’ company is globally dominant. And critics consider his involvement with WIND Mobile just another piece of the puzzle, with proof of this coming as Sawiris describes the future of global telecommunications as being in the hands of just a few firms.

With Canada potentially serving as a mini-model of Sawiris’ global dream, you’d think he would be a touch more appreciative. But the industrialist makes no bones about Canada’s Big Three: they are a “joke.”

“I have been offered by two of them (Telus, Bell, Rogers Communications) to buy me out at a very significant profit,” Mr. Sawiris said. “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.”

And we all know Sawiris is above bribes, right?

Sawiris is also quick to criticize the Big Three for playing unfairly, lambasting the companies for denying WIND Mobile access to the wireless infrastructure sharing agreements mandated by the CRTC.

As to the other new companies in Canada’s “backwater” industry, Sawiris is clear about what he sees. His belief in the inevitability of failure for Mobilicity and Public Mobile is evident. “They will be dead on arrival,” Sawiris says.

Tough talk, indeed, and we haven’t even reached the moves Sawiris is up to with Russian powerhouse VimpelCom on the road to global consolidation. His quest for international domination certainly begs some questions, as there appears to be little the bold captain of industry won’t do to further advance his telecom aspirations.

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Written by: Jordan Richardson. www.digitcom.ca >. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com > by: RSS >, Twitter >, Identi.ca >, or Friendfeed >

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