Wind Mobile on block in new wireless shakeup

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Initial bids for Canada’s biggest wireless firm said to value company at up to C$1 billion.

Canada’s largest new wireless company, Wind Mobile, is being put up for sale by its Amsterdam-based parent company VimpelCom Ltd., sources say.

UBS AG is said to be working for VimpelCom on the sale, said a source. Another person close to the situation said Wind CEO Anthony Lacavera’s holding company, AAL Corp., is teaming up with Egyptian billionaire and telecom magnate Naguib Sawiris’s investment firm Accelero Capital to consider a bid, for which they had already secured additional financing.

Separately, Dvai Ghose, head of research at Canaccord Genuity, also said VimpelCom had begun a sale process, citing “several sources” in a note to clients.

On Thursday, VimpelCom spokesperson Bobby Leach said:”It is the opinion of an independent analyst and therefore does not represent any official views or statements of, or by, VimpelCom Group.”

Wind, which launched in late 2009, was the first and strongest of several new wireless upstarts to attempt to gain a foothold in Canada’s wireless industry, which has been traditionally dominated by three big players: Rogers Communications Inc., BCE Inc.’s Bell Mobility and Telus Corp.

The federal government set aside wireless licenses in 2008 for new challengers in order to inject more competition into Canada’s wireless industry.

But even before the new entrants launched service, industry observers expected the companies to sell out to larger players, given the industry’s history of consolidation and the heavily discounted prices offered by the new entrants.

VimpelCom, which owns Wind’s parent company, Orascom Telecom, must wait for regulatory approval of a deal that would allow it to gain control of the company from Mr. Lacavera before it can complete any sale.

Once that deal, announced in January, is approved, Mr. Lacavera has said he plans to resign as Wind’s CEO. He did not respond to a request for comment on Thursday.