tp-sawiris

Orascom Telecom chairman Naguib Sawiris speaks at a conference in Beirut. The company is believed to be in merger talks with a Russian rival. ((Cynthia Karam/Reuters))

The Egyptian financial backers of telecom company Wind Mobile have merged with a Russian company to create the world's fifth-largest telecommunications company.

Moscow-based VimpelCom Ltd. and a division of Egyptian conglomerate Orascom moved Monday to merge their international telecommunications assets.

Combined, the companies had annual revenues of $21.5 billion US last year and 174 million wireless subscribers across 20 countries.

Among Orascom's vast holdings is Wind Mobile, the company that launched a wireless service in December 2009. The company has more than 100,000 subscribers in Canada.

Financial terms were not released, but after the transaction closes, VimpelCom will own the entirely of Orascom Telecom and 100 per cent of Wind Italy, the company's Italian cellular service.

It is not yet clear if Wind Mobile's Canadian assets are included in the deal. The company was not immediately available for comment.

Orascom chair and founder Naguib Sawiris telegraphed his intention to sell telecom assets to shore up debt in late September and appears to have been actively trying to make a deal since before then.

"We share a common vision with our new partners at VimpelCom of the exciting prospects of our new, enlarged and diversified telecoms platform," he said in a release Monday.

"I am looking forward to being fully involved in the new group," he said.

Trading in Orascom shares surged more than five per cent on the Cairo Stock Exchange earlier Monday.