Egypt's Sawiris could sell T. Austria stake to Slim: Report

Reuters, Thursday 24 May 2012

Telecoms tycoon says he may sell stake in the partly state-owned firm if Austria doesn't let him make sweeping changes

Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris threatened to sell his stake in Telekom Austria - perhaps to Mexican peer Carlos Slim - if Austria does not give Sawiris and partner Ronny Pecik free rein to streamline the company.

The partners have built a 21 per cent stake in Telekom Austria, in which the state is the biggest shareholders with a 28.4 per cent stake. Pecik got a seat on its board on Wednesday, while Sawiris put his board seat bid on hold.
Asked by Bloomberg Television why he was interested in a company that was overstaffed and needed cost cuts, Sawiris said:
"That is exactly why I went in, because then there is a lot of savings, there is a lot of upside ... if the company is managed in the private sector" manner, which he called the big question.
"If it happens we're staying and we're going to increase our stake. If it doesn't happen..." he added in an interview broadcast on Thursday, making a dismissive hand gesture.
Asked if he would sell the stake to Carlos Slim, whose America Movil is expanding in Europe, Sawiris said:
"It depends on the government, if the government is not going to allow us to manage the company the way we want then it becomes unattractive for us. I am an industrialist. I didn't do this deal to go in and buy and sell shares."
Sawiris said Slim had not spoken to him about a deal, but he had heard Slim had approached the Austrian government.
"The best scenario would have been he buys (the state) out and then me and him (run) the company. That would be great," he said with a laugh.
Markus Beyrer, head of the OeIAG state holding company and Telekom Austria chairman, told shareholders that the state stake could be sold only if the government changed course and authorised such a transaction, which was not expected.
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