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United’s Wind buy creates new converged player in Greece

United Group has agreed to buy Greek mobile operator Wind Hellas, a tie-up that will create a much stronger converged player in the country.

The telecoms and media group, which has operations in multiple markets in South East Europe, owns Greek pay TV provider Nova. It has brokered a deal with Wind Hellas owner Crystal Almond Holdings to acquire the mobile operator for an undisclosed sum.

What we do know is that, according to United Group, Wind has a customer base of 4.2 million and generates north of €500 million per year in revenues, mainly through mobile services, but also fixed, Internet and TV offerings.

And that makes it a great buy for the media outfit.

United Group’s Nova business claims a share of somewhere between 25% and 35% of the pay TV market in Greece, according to the latest statistics from the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT). The regulator’s figures were published earlier this year but the data comes from end-2019 so there may have been small changes in the shape market in the interim; however the numbers give a fairly accurate picture of the state of play.

Nova ranks second in the pay TV space behind telecoms incumbent OTE, which has captured around half of the market. Wind, meanwhile, has a 5%-10% market share, mainly thanks to the TV service it bundles with its telecoms offers.

In the mobile space, Wind ranks third of the country’s three main mobile network operators with around a quarter of the market; 24.5%, to be precise, based on that end-2019 data. OTE’s Cosmote unit is well out in front with 46.6%, while Vodafone claims a 28.9% share. And on the OTE-dominated fixed side, Wind and Vodafone both have 10%-15% of the market, while Forthnet, a United Group brand, claims 5%-10%.

Presuming the takeover goes ahead – it is subject to the usual regulatory approvals and as such is slated to close next year – it will create a more competitive entity across the board. As United Group points out, the merged entity will be the number two player in both the broadband Internet and TV services markets in Greece. And, as the company did not specifically mention, there will be solid cross-marketing opportunities too.

“Wind, with its strong mobile business, has an amazing fit with the media and the fixed-line expertise of Nova and United Group,” said Victoriya Boklag, chief executive of United Group. “In Wind, we are buying a successful business that will enable us to strengthen our presence and offering to customers across Greece.”

While a company the size of OTE is probably not exactly quaking in its boots at the prospect of stronger competition, the merged entity will be better placed to erode the incumbent’s market share. Meanwhile, the deal will prove challenging to similar-sized player Vodafone. Things could start getting interesting in Greece.


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