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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 14:22 GMT 15:22 UK
Bidders poised for Greek 3G auction
View of Athens
Greece: Prepared for only three 3G bidders
Greece has cleared four telecoms groups to take part in its auction of new mobile phone licences.

Plans call for the sale of four third-generation (3G) licences on Wednesday, with the starting price for each licence set at 50bn drachmas ($125m; 89m).

Four lots of additional second-generation (2G) spectrum are scheduled to go under the hammer a week later.

The auction comes at a difficult time for European wireless operators, most of which are battling high debts, slower growth and investor concern over the heavy costs and uncertain financial prospects of 3G.

The four groups approved to take part include Greece's three existing mobile operators - CosmOTE - a venture of Greece's OTE Telecoms and Norway's Telenor - Panafon, a Vodafone subsidiary, and Telecom Italia's Stet Hellas.

The fourth approved bidder is Infoquest, a Greek IT group.

Good potential

Analysts said the Greek mobile market has good potential for operators but the licence auction was not expected to be a big moneyspinner for the government.

Four 3G licences and all the remaining 2G spectrum might generate about 250bn drachmas for the government, analysts said.

Infoquest, which bought a fixed wireless access licence at auction last year, might opt just to bid for the 2G spectrum, they said.

Telecoms regulator EETT, which is conducting the auction, is prepared for this eventuality.

It has said it will sell only three 3G licences if a fourth bidder does not emerge.

Panafon 'overtaken'

About 60% of Greeks have mobile phones.

Analysts said CosmOTE had recently overtaken Panafon as the country's number one operator, having about 37% of the market.

The Vodafone subsidiary has about 35% while Stet Hellas has about 28%, they said.


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