Greece has significant growth potential in various sectors. Tourism, telecommunications, health, energy and education are some of those of greatest interest. But they are not the only ones. This is what Nikos Stathopoulos, president of the private investment fund BC Partners and chairman of the board of directors at telecommunications company Nova, which officially proceeded last week to complete the integration of Wind, notes in an interview with Kathimerini.
“Our vision is to create a strong and diverse provider that will bring tomorrow’s technology today to even more homes and businesses,” Stathopoulos says, emphasizing that “we are not just looking to increase our market share, but to grow and upgrade the market itself.” He recognizes that subscribers across Europe are now extremely demanding and looking for high-quality content, while many are connected to more than one platform. He thus promises that “in terms of content enrichment, there’s a lot of news coming, and it is safe to say that Premier League and Euroleague aficionados alike know where to tune in for years to come.” He identifies Nova’s goal as providing more technologically advanced and reliable options “at prices that will be affordable for as many people as possible.” “Healthy competition does not scare us; on the contrary it makes us all better. The stronger it gets, the more the benefits for consumers increase,” he tells Kathimerini. Regarding the group’s 2 billion euros of investments in the development of digital infrastructure, he states that “the fiber-optic network development project is progressing smoothly, aiming to complete the investment by 2027. Additionally, new areas are being added every day and we are one step closer to the digital future of Greece.” Because for Stathopoulos, the vehicle that will lead to the digital future is the creation of the optical-fiber network and, as he states, “unfortunately, our country, compared to our European partners, is falling behind in network development but also in the penetration of technology.” He therefore characterizes as very optimistic the fact that ambitious investment plans have been announced and proprietary fiber-optic networks are already being developed.
Being the head of one of Europe’s largest private investment funds with a significant presence in Greece, he estimates that “the current government has taken important steps, and this is proven by the number of investments that the country has attracted in recent years.” However, he does not hide the fact that there are other fields, such as speeding up the delivery of justice and the simplification of procedures and licensing, in which there is room for improvement. “The most important thing is to establish a pro-investment perception both in society and in the public administration, and to strengthen entrepreneurship, which is the driving force of the economy.”
It took several years of effort to acquire, capitalize and integrate Forthnet/Nova and Wind. Where do you envision the new unified shape to be in three years? Both in terms of market share and financial performance – i.e. turnover and EBITDA.
In addition to effort, it took strength, determination, teamwork, and a well-designed business plan to make the new Nova a reality. Our compass was, and remains, the vision of creating a strong and diverse provider that will bring the technology of tomorrow to even more homes and businesses today. The union of Wind and Nova is not just the sum of the two. It creates something new and pioneering. A game changer in the telecommunications and media industry. Our goal in the future is to contribute substantially to the digital transformation of the country, through competitive, innovative products and services that will respond to consumers’ real needs. In terms of our performance, it is a bit early to make predictions for the next three years. We are not just looking to increase our market share, but above all to upgrade the market itself.
Are you satisfied with the level of homogenization of the two companies? Have synergies already started to be extracted at the levels of cost savings and promotion of the services offered?
It was a difficult and complex project. We knew from the beginning that there would be several challenges ahead, which we had to deal with with careful planning and methodology. We are talking about two well-established companies, which, in addition to their separate courses, also had different corporate cultures. We feel proud because, despite the difficulties, we succeeded. The new Nova combines the dynamism, freshness and innovation of a new provider with the long experience and know-how inherited from its two predecessors. Until recently synergies existed. Now there is a company that operates through a single strategic plan. Soon, the single identity of the new Nova will become even more concrete, at every level, operational, commercial, but also in new-generation product and service development.
Do you intend to further enrich the content of pay TV? And if so, does this only apply to the sports package or entertainment as well?
In recent years there has been an increase in subscription TV in Greece as well. Subscribers are extremely demanding and look for high-quality content. In European countries such as the UK, France and Germany, where the use of subscription platforms is extremely widespread, there is healthy competition to create and offer premium content, resulting in many subscribers being connected to more than one platform. Let’s not forget that EON TV embodies United Group’s innovative DNA, as it was created entirely in United Cloud, the group’s innovation hub, which in many markets changes the data and sets the trends. We must develop and evolve this heritage of innovation constantly, keeping in mind the consumers’ needs. I’m certain that, in terms of content enrichment, there’s a lot of news coming, and it is safe to say that Premier League and Euroleague aficionados alike already know where to tune in for years to come. The union of Wind and Nova is not just the sum of the two. It creates something new and pioneering. A game changer in the industry. The stronger the healthy competition, the greater the benefits for consumers. Tourism, health, energy and education are areas of investment interest.
Given that the competition currently controls significant market shares, can you give us some reasons why it would benefit a subscriber to move from another telecommunications and TV platform to yours? Why should someone choose you?
The main reason every consumer chooses product A or B is very simple and rational. Everyone wants to meet their needs in the best and usually the most economical way. Our goal is to provide more technologically advanced and reliable options, at prices that will be affordable for as many people as possible. Healthy competition does not scare us; on the contrary it makes us all better. The stronger it is, the greater the benefits for consumers.
Fiber-optic network development project
As a group, are you satisfied with the operating framework of telecommunications and entertainment in Greece?
As a country we are at a turning point that will define the digital leap and the so-called “democratization” of technology, so that everyone can access fast speeds at affordable prices. The vehicle that will lead us to the digital future is undoubtedly fiber optics, and unfortunately our country, compared to our European partners, is behind in network development as well as technology penetration.
It is very encouraging that ambitious investment plans have been announced and we are already developing proprietary/private fiber-optic networks. As a country we must aim for low prices – first in the wholesale section – and then for the final consumer. Only in this way will we achieve the penetration of technology that will truly change the landscape on a social and economic level.
You have announced a 2-billion-euro investment plan for the development of an optical-fiber network. What stage is the project at?
From day one, United Group and Nova have been strategic partners and accelerators of the vision for the country’s digital transition. We dare and invest, despite the socioeconomic instability that prevails globally, precisely because we remain faithful to this vision. The fiber-optic network development project is progressing normally with the goal of completing the investment by 2027. New areas are being added every day and we are getting one step closer to Greece’s digital future.
As a private equity fund that has repeatedly invested in Greek companies, do you still see opportunities in the Greek market and, if so, in which sectors?
In recent years, Greece has made enormous progress in terms of attracting investment. Despite the global challenges, it continues to regain its prestige with international investors. The country has significant growth potential in various sectors.
Tourism, telecommunications, health, energy and education are some of those of greatest interest. But they are not the only ones. The growth stock I mentioned above is pervasive in the economy and mainly has to do with the qualitative characteristics of each business, such as the degree of extroversion and the emphasis it places on innovation.
The example of Pharmathen is typical. Who would have imagined that in the middle of the 10-year economic crisis, a Greek pharmaceutical industry would achieve such high growth rates and even target foreign markets? At BC Partners, we identified this opportunity, invested in innovation, research and development, with the result that Pharmathen, a few years later, is a point of reference internationally. In Greece there are businesses that have managed to stand up in very difficult circumstances.
And this is not by accident. The country has high-quality human resources, people with knowledge and skills, but also entrepreneurs with passion, vision and entrepreneurial spirit. This is the most valuable capital that we must protect and strengthen for other investors to believe and invest in the country.
Being by far the largest Greek manager of private investment funds internationally, explain to us what is needed to make Greece more attractive to foreign direct investment?
Investors usually seek a stable environment, at every level, financial, fiscal, regulatory. They want to feel the maximum possible security for their funds and the smooth implementation of their investment. In this area, I think that the current government has taken important steps, and this is proven by the number of investments that Greece has attracted in recent years. Beyond that there are other areas, such as speeding up the delivery of justice and simplifying procedures and licensing, in which we can improve.
The most basic of all is to establish a pro-investment perception both in society and in the public administration, as well as to strengthen entrepreneurship, which is the driving force of the economy. We must understand that foreign and domestic investments are extremely important for economic development, and economic development is a prerequisite for social prosperity.
Greece has significant growth potential in various sectors.
Never say never to buyouts
Are you evaluating further buyouts in the telecommunications and entertainment industry in Greece?
I have learned never to say never, even when there is nothing planned in the near future. I will answer your question the same way. Opportunities can present themselves at any time and an investor must identify and evaluate them. As I have said in the past, despite the unfavorable conditions prevailing in the global economy, this sector remains resilient and therefore attractive for investment funds. Investments of 2 billion euros in optical-fiber networks are in progress.
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