What were some of the challenges you faced in those markets? We have 32 million subscribers in Pakistan. They're spending $2 ARPUs. We are the biggest taxpayer in Pakistan. And we're making money there. In North Korea, there is the geopolitical challenge, but there is also the human part. Today, 300,000 North Koreans who never dreamed they would be able to own a mobile phone like the rest of the world own a phone. I think by year end we'll be at 500,000 subscribers. If you go to Pyongyang, people don't know any foreign company except Orascom. The word Orascom in North Korea today is like Santa Claus. Whether we are going to make money there is still the big question, but there are some things in life besides just making money. My human encounters in North Korea have been very shaking for me.
What was it like setting up a company in post-invasion Iraq? The trick was, we had put in very little money with very little risk financing. Nobody would have gone to Iraq during the war for a two-year licence. But we said we will go. And we bid-because I knew it would never be two years, and I was right. We stayed there for four years. We doubled the amortization of our initial investment in our calculation. When they came out and asked for a billion-and-a-half-dollar licence fee, I sold my asset then. Because I was not going to pay a billion and a half in a country that has been in such a mess.
So what'd you put in and what'd you get out? We put in $5 million, and we got $1.2 billion. Very tough. They kidnapped our people two times. We were happy to leave. But we didn't leave because we were scared off. We left because they were not quite fair with the auction.
One analyst I spoke to said a merger was necessary to deal with Weather's crippling debt load. They know shit about us. First of all, all the debt, the big debt we have on Wind Telecomunicazioni, has no bearing on the mother company. And we have been performing. Our debt is trading above 100% now. Which means we're one of the best. Our company in Italy is the best-performing company in Italy right now. We're growing and the others are shrinking. In the third quarter of this year, we got 100% of the net adds. We moved from 13 million subscribers in a fully penetrated market when we came in to 20 million now. We are ahead of all of our payments, and we don't have any significant payments before 2013. It's like people just want to find something bad to say. I don't give a damn. Whether my stock goes down or up, I'm not selling my shares.
Does Canada represent a stable market for you, given the fact that some of the other markets can be volatile at times? I wish I could say that. It should have been.
I s there any plan to invest more money if the ownership restrictions get lifted? Definitely. We believe that Wind should be the consolidator of all the smaller players here. We are going to be open to that. We are not interested in smaller players that are only coming with cash or the licences they paid cash for. We want them to succeed and have some subscribers, because we can't do the job alone. And we'd be very happy to be a consolidator. We believe Canada deserves a very strong fourth player that will knock on this...what I call the monopolization of the consumer.
Would you ever consider investing in someone like Rogers or Bell? No. No. Never.
Any particular reason? Too slow. And too big for me to buy. I am not a minority shareholder. There's nothing I can do if I buy a few per cent of a company like that.
Do you see someone like Verizon or AT&T coming up at some point? It depends on your legislation. You should open your doors. It's just ridiculous. Do you want to be like China?