Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd. is considering making a bid for small wireless carrier Wind Mobile, which was put up for sale by its Amsterdam-based parent company VimpelCom Ltd.
Although the Toronto-based financial services company has yet to submit a formal bid, sources say it is engaged in early-stage talks and is contemplating making an offer for the Toronto-based carrier, potentially as part of a consortium or in partnership with another player.
Neither Fairfax nor VimpelCom could be immediately reached for comment late Thursday.
Last week, sources told The Globe that VimpelCom had begun a sale process for Wind, which is officially known as Globalive Wireless Management Corp. UBS AG is assisting with the sale process and initial bids were due last Friday. That first round of bids were said to value Wind between $500-million and $1-billion.
The list of bidders is said to include Wind CEO Anthony Lacavera’s holding company, AAL Corp., which is teaming up with Egyptian billionaire and telecom magnate Naguib Sawiris’s investment firm Accelero Capital.
Mr. Sawiris provided the initial financial backing for Wind Mobile to set up shop following the last Canadian government auction of wireless spectrum in 2008. He previously sold his interest when his company, Orascom Telecom Holding SAE, was later acquired by VimpelCom.
Sources have also said that Rogers Communications Inc. has held talks with VimpelCom to purchase Wind. (Rogers has previously declined comment). Other potential bidders include wireless new entrants Mobilicity and Public Mobile.
Also, earlier this week, Waterloo-Ont.-based mobile company, Fongo Inc., announced it was making an offer to buy Wind in exchange for $1 and a 49-per-cent equity stake in Fongo – a move that analysts derided as a publicity stunt.
For its part, VimpelCom is waiting for regulatory approval to gain formal control of Wind through a buyout deal with Mr. Lacavera. Still, some analysts suggest that it is pursuing a sale process now because Ottawa has set a June 11 deadline for bidders to submit applications for an upcoming spectrum auction of the valuable 700 MHz frequency which is set to begin on Nov. 19.
“Time seems to be running out for VimpelCom,” said Dvai Ghose, an analyst with Canaccord Genuity, in a note to clients earlier this week. He later added: “This may be why VimpelCom appears to have started a sale process even before it has received regulatory approval to acquire control of the asset from Lacavera.”