TORONTO (Reuters) - Vimpelcom Ltd has agreed to sell its majority stake in Canadian wireless carrier Wind Mobile to its current minority owner Globalive for around C$300 million ($272 million), two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Monday.
One of the sources said the transaction would be partly funded by an investor group led by Canadian hedge fund West Face Capital Inc and include California-based private equity firm Tennenbaum Capital Partners.
The deal, expected to be announced on Tuesday, is at a steep discount to the price the young carrier paid for airwaves in 2008, suggesting that rival bidders were difficult to come by.
Globalive, a domestic telecom provider led by entrepreneur Anthony Lacavera, was the face of the business and paid more than C$442 million in 2008 for the airwaves that allowed Wind to launch in Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia.
Those spectrum licenses were reserved for newcomers to the market. The federal government has since repeatedly said it wouldn’t allow them to fall into the hands of Canada’s big established phone companies.
Europe’s Vimpelcom wrote off the value of its Canadian investment in March. Globalive was initially backed by Egypt’s Orascom Telecom, before it was sold to Vimpelcom.
When the two companies entered the Canadian market, they had to contend with legislation that until recently barred foreign companies from controlling any domestic telecoms.
After those rules were relaxed, voting control of the company stayed with Lacavera despite Vimpelcom’s majority equity stake.
While Wind Mobile has emerged as the fourth-largest wireless operator in Canada, it lags far behind the three biggest players - Telus Corp, BCE Inc’s Bell, and Rogers Communications Inc - which each have at least 10 times more subscribers.
Lacavera said in June that Wind Mobile had more than 735,000 subscribers, was close to breaking even on a cash-flow basis and should turn a profit by 2015.
The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed sources, reported that other backers of the deal would include Novus Wireless Communications and Serruya Private Equity.
Vimpelcom declined to comment. West Face, Novus and Serruya were not immediately available for comment. A spokeswoman for Tennenbaum was not immediately able to comment.
Editing by David Gregorio, Jeffrey Hodgson and Cynthia Osterman