Wind Hellas restructures again, months after administration

Greek mobile company, bought in a controversial flat-pack deal, struggles with €55m debt
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The Independent Online

Wind Hellas, the UK-based Greek telecoms giant, is going through a second restructuring this weekend, just seven months after being rescued from administration.

Big four accountant Deloitte has been brought in to advise creditors, led by investment bank JP Morgan, over the terms of its estimated €1.7bn (£1.4bn) debt pile. Three specialist firms pitched on Friday to second a chief restructuring officer. Investment bank Morgan Stanley and lawyer White & Case are also advising Wind Hellas.

In November, Wind Hellas became the biggest pre-pack administration in UK history. A pre-pack is a controversial deal that allows a firm to clear most of its debts by going into administration with a buyer lined-up to purchase the company immediately.

Wind Hellas had been owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who moved the company from Luxembourg to the UK last August. Mr Sawiris's vehicle, Weather Investments, ended up back in control, costing bondholders a reported €1.5bn.

Ernst & Young, which set up the administration, is the subject of a review by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. Bertrand des Pallieres, a hedge fund boss, lost millions in the pre-pack and accused Ernst & Young of a conflict of interest as it is auditor to other Greek telecoms businesses owned by Mr Sawiris.

Despite the attempts to strengthen Wind Hellas's balance sheet, it has struggled in Greece's financial crisis. Greeks have taken to the streets to protest against the government's austerity measures. It is the third biggest mobile phone operator in the country, with 4.6 million customers and more than £1bn revenue a year. However, sales fell 18.5 per cent in the first quarter of this year on the same period last year.

Weather bought the group from private equity giants TPG and Apax Partners, which owned Wind Hellas for two years. About €55m debt payments are thought to be due next week.

Gerry Loftus, the Deloitte partner believed to be acting on the case, declined to comment.

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